New fresh food partnership for Orangeville Food Bank

May 12, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Jasen Obermeyer

Orangeville Food Bank has entered into a new partnership for a program that will produce more fresh foods for the coming season, dubbed “Grow a Row Give a Row.”

The program, sometimes titled Plant a Row, Grow a Row, traces its roots to Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1986, when it was initiated by Ron and Eunice O’Donovan. That year they produced more potatoes in their backyard garden than their family could consume and they decided to donate the excess to the local food bank, Winnipeg Harvest. Their idea was met with such enthusiasm that the O’Donovans decided to encourage friends and neighbours to donate their surplus produce. Since then, over 1.4 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables have been given to Winnipeg Harvest through the Grow-A-Row program.

The program can involve anyone who can grow a row of any food of their choosing in their backyard, and then donate it to the food bank.

Heather Hayes, the food bank’s executive director, says she saw the program when sorting through the Internet and thought, “That would be fantastic for us because we know that’s a real source of need for us right now.”

She says last year the food bank passed out 56,000 pounds of fresh produce, and this year they want to see an increase of 10 to 15 per cent, and the program should be able to assist those efforts. “Good food shouldn’t be a privilege, it should be a right.”

Members of the food bank will be at the Orangeville farmers’ market with The County of Dufferin Compost Program on Saturday, May 13, in support of National Compost Week and the Grow a Row program, as well as signing people up for the program.

A few months ago, the food bank also introduced “Meal in a bag.” It involves food that doesn’t move off the shelf, and is packaged in a bag with spices and dried ingredients, with a recipe on it, and according to Ms. Hayes, the bags “are just flying off the shelves.”

She says this allows food bank users to learn a new skill, as spices are more expensive than standard ingredients, and is similar to buying takeout at a grocery store.

Ms. Hayes shared a story of a gentleman recently, who asked what he could do for the food bank. He went to Walmart, and when he showed up at the food bank brought 300 pounds of fresh produce consisting of; strawberries, pears, apples, bananas, oranges and grapes.

“We take for granted that we can go out and get the thing you love to get, and people who are living on a limited income … the extras are the first things to go off a food budget. You’re not going for fun, and you’re not going for fancy.”

Ms. Hayes also said the gentleman, who wished to remain anonymous, brought in “six of the biggest cases of diapers I’ve ever seen.” Each case had 150 diapers of sizes five and six.

Apart from the new partnership, Shaw’s Creek CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is also fundraising to provide shares to the Food Bank for this coming season, as well as Mono’s E&J Collins Ltd. providing two bins of fresh spinach every week.

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