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Fighting Food Insecurity

Ottawa Food Bank bin at local grocery store

Ottawa Food Bank bin at local grocery store

A year of telling stories about our food culture and community has come full circle.

Many of the people, organizations and companies that we’ve highlighted, such as Amber Westfall, Operation Come Home and Backyard Edibles, are part of a community that cares about helping and feeding others. For our last story, we wanted to focus on the umbrella organization that helps feed everyone in our city.

Michael Maidment, Executive Director of the Ottawa Food Bank (OFB) remains calm while grappling with a difficult and growing issue. “We know that providing more food is not necessarily going to fix the issue of hunger,” he tells me. Food banks are temporary solutions caused by many issues - lack of income and affordable housing chief among them.

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OC Transpo Annual Christmas food drive

OC Transpo Annual Christmas food drive

The OFB supports a network of 114 agencies throughout Ottawa that distribute food. Among these are multi-service programs such as homeless shelters, addiction & rehabilitation programs, after-school programs and more. Some of these agencies, such as the Gloucester Emergency Food Cupboard are feeding over 2,000 people a month. Each agency focuses on serving their clients whereas OFB focuses on collecting, supplying and distributing food to the agencies. Each year they bring in about $13 million dollars worth of food, $7 million of which is donated and the rest purchased.

In October of this year, the Food Bank launched a new strategic plan and updated their vision and mission to reflect a new goal. “We’re not just talking about the amount of food that we distribute anymore…now we want to make a positive impact on the health of our community,” says Michael. Community consultations leading up to the new strategic plan resulted in an increase of meat and milk donations as well as adding lean protein sources such as fish. Ottawa Public Health was invited to review the non-perishable food the OFB had purchased and recommended the need for items lower in fat, sodium and sugar, and higher in fibre and protein. Implementing these recommendations has been a costly investment in the health of their clients, but well worth it.

Ottawa Food Bank warehouse bins of non-perishable food

Ottawa Food Bank warehouse bins of non-perishable food

The OFB is looking to pioneer yet more changes to fill the increasing need they see in the community. As part of their Community Harvest Program, they currently grow their own produce with the help of 700 volunteers on farmland donated by the Black Family Farm. In a typical year, they grow about 100,000 pounds of food and distribute it throughout the agencies. With the Food Recovery Program, a program that also generates donations from grocery stores and farmers market, the OFB is exploring the possibility of beginning to process their own food. This would allow them to turn their own excess produce or large donations of fruit and vegetables into canned, nutritious food before it could potentially spoil.

If you would like to help the Ottawa Food Bank or if you need their services, you can find more information on their website. By improving food security for all and making food literacy information available, we bring together our community and raise awareness about how we are connected to the food we eat and grow - and to each other.

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  • Ottawa Food Bank