HOLIDAY FOOD DRIVE: Superstore, No Frills, Wholesale Club collecting for Harvest Manitoba

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From now until Christmas Eve, all Winnipeg Real Canadian Superstore, No Frills and Wholesale Club stores will be collecting non-perishable food items as well as cash donations for Harvest Manitoba to support community members in need with its annual Holiday Food Drive.

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“Obviously as a big company, we try to give back to the community and we do that in lots of different ways,” said Loblaws director of corporate affairs Mark Boudreau, speaking from Halifax. “We’re a grocer so our food bank partners are near and dear to our heart.”

The Holiday Food Drive kicked off on Dec. 2.

“We collect food all year long (for food banks) and we’ve got a number of different programs around food reclamation and donating perishable items and those sort of things but the focus right now is the holiday season and we’re trying to do a really big push for Harvest Manitoba,” said Boudreau.

According to Food Banks Canada, there has been a 20% increase in food bank visits nationally since the start of the pandemic, with children in Manitoba accounting for 41.6% of food bank users and seniors representing 6.6%. It is the highest it’s been since the 2008 recession.

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“In Winnipeg for example, it’s shocking to know that one in five households in some way is dependent on food banks so the food drive is as important as ever to help people facing food insecurity and the cost of living and all of those sorts of things ,” Boudreau said.

“I think people generally at this time of year are pretty generous. They see a food bank and they’re more inclined to donate but this year there is that public education piece that we’re hoping will help to drive awareness around not just what you’re doing this but why you’re doing it.”

Donation bins for food items can be found in store and monetary donations are accepted at the checkout. When it comes to preferred donations, the most needed items are the same ones that fill the shopping cart each week including pasta and pasta sauces, canned meats and fish, canned vegetables and fruit, whole grain cereals, baby foods and formula, bathroom tissue, diapers and personal hygiene products.

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Harvest Manitoba President and CEO Vince Barletta in Harvest's Winnipeg warehouse.
Harvest Manitoba President and CEO Vince Barletta in Harvest’s Winnipeg warehouse. Photo by Supplied photo /Harvest Manitoba

Harvest Manitoba feeds over 80,000 people a month, including hampers through food banks all over the province, as well as soup kitchens, daycare centers and meal snack programs.

“A big part of the food that ends up in those hampers and ends up in those 350 agencies (across the province) comes from donations and it comes from people putting their tin in the bin,” said Harvest Manitoba President and CEO Vince Barletta. “Right now we have over 600 of our yellow bins all over the city of Winnipeg where people can put non-perishable goods. We pick those items up that ends up in our warehouse (in Winnipeg) and ends up in our hampers and other programs.

“Food donations have always been a huge part of how we operate and for all of our retail partners that help us and all Winnipeggers and Manitobans that put that tin in the bin and bring food here it means a lot especially this time of year.”

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Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, it has been a “perfect storm” for Harvest Manitoba, Barletta said, which was almost forced to close its doors.

“We saw our demand for food, the number of people we were serving increase almost overnight by 30% and that’s because people were out of work and out of school and this was before many of the government programs started to ramp up,” said Barletta . “There was a lot of uncertainty and a lot of people who were severely economically challenged.

“At the same time because people weren’t going out as much and doing as much of that and were stockpiling food and toilet paper for their own households as well as supply chain problems, we saw out donations of food drop by about 80%. At the same time that happened, because of the public health restrictions we had to send many of our volunteers who support our work here home. This is a place that is supported by tens of thousands of volunteer hours every year so without volunteers it’s really tough to do our work here.

“That all happened at the same time.”

Twitter: @SunGlenDawkins

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