Posted by: hepowers | May 14, 2010

Hamilton Food Share

Photo by Simon Howden

Here in Hamilton, Ontario we have numerous agencies working to improve the lives of people short on cash. Sadly, the need is considerable. I often see the logo for Hamilton Food Share appearing in local media and today I visited their website to better understand what they do.

This agency was created in 1990, ‘To diminish hunger in our community by collecting and sharing food and other resources through effective partnerships that strengthen our response to hunger.’  Until today I assumed they were essentially a food bank but Food Movers and Shakers might be a better description of this operation. Their 2009 Annual Report states that 2.1 million pounds of food were raised and distributed. While local community food drives contribute 15% of their annual food inventory, 85% comes from food industry donations. Wow.

Hamilton Food Share distributes food to emergency food programs (food banks and hot meal lines) at agencies such as St. Matthew’s House, Neighbour to Neighbour, Wesley Urban Ministries and the Good Shepherd Centres.

On several of their website pages, this statement appears: ‘Every $1 donated raised $5 worth of food.’ How does that work? The example used for demonstration is the supply and distribution of milk where it would take $8300.00 a month to buy 8300 litres of milk, plus the cost of shipping. Instead of purchasing, Hamilton Food Share has established partnerships with the food industry, in this case, the ‘The Dairy Farmers of Ontario, The Dairy Transportation Association and Dairy Processors work together to donate 8,320 litres of milk’ to HFS which distributes the milk to agencies in need. As stated in their Frequently Asked Questions page, ‘Funds used to open this gateway continue to produce donated supplies on an ongoing basis. On average throughout the year, for every dollar we expend on transportation, storage and distribution we can raise $5 worth of food.’

How smart is that? Other achievements mentioned in the annual report include funding partnerships that allowed a new headquarters which is owned, not rented; building their own industrial sized coolers and fridges; and achieving a first in Canada by setting up ‘electronic standardization within the local food banking system’. This enables a downloading and sharing of data about food bank use.

The Hunger in Our Own Backyard section explains that over 19,000 people use local food banks per month and 8,313 of these are children. Kudos to Hamilton Food Share for filling a vital community need.

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