Harvest hat trick scores fresh food for those in need

Direct Energy volunteers return to the field for third season (of gleaning)

MARKHAM, ON, Sept. 30, 2011 /CNW/ - On Tuesday, October 4, a group of volunteers will descend on the fields of Whittamore's Farm in support of Ontario food banks in time for Thanksgiving. Over the past three years, the Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB), Whittamore's Farm and Direct Energy have sent 20,000 pounds of produce to the tables of local families, in the name of reducing hunger.

This large gleaning project is a part of the Ontario Association of Food Banks' "Community Harvest Ontario" program, which provides a greater volume of fresh, healthy, local foods to Ontarians in need.

"With over 400,000 Ontarians forced to turn to food banks each month, there is a significant need to increase the amount of fresh foods we are able to provide," says Bill Laidlaw, Executive Director of the Ontario Association of Food Banks. "We are incredibly touched by the on-going support of Direct Energy and Whittamore's Farm in helping our neighbours."

In Ontario, it is estimated that province-wide approximately 25 million pounds of fruits and vegetables are disposed of or tilled back into the soil each year. Community Harvest Ontario builds the capacity of communities to gain access to this much-needed food through great partnerships like that of Direct Energy, Whittamore's Farm and the OAFB.

"The gleaning event with the OAFB at Whittamore's Farm has become one of our most popular volunteer opportunities, providing our employees with a unique activity that directly benefits the local community," says Hillary Marshall, Vice President Communications at Direct Energy. "This year we have the added opportunity to sort the produce we pick at the food bank, bringing us even closer to the families we're here to help."

The OAFB is working with companies, agricultural organizations and farmers to identify additional opportunities for large gleaning projects, and aims to launch a provincial program dedicated to this activity.  Direct Energy is the first company to provide and dedicate over 180 volunteers, over three years, to a provincial gleaning initiative.

"Community Harvest Ontario shows what great work we can do when Ontario's farms, volunteers and food banks come together," says Laidlaw. "We know that a lot of families will have a good Thanksgiving meal because of what we do here today."

If you would like to find out more about food banks in Ontario, please visit www.oafb.ca.

About OAFB
The Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB) is a network of over 120 food banks from Windsor to Ottawa, and Thunder Bay to Niagara Falls.  For more information about the OAFB, as well as hunger and poverty in Ontario, please visit www.oafb.ca.

About Direct Energy
Direct Energy is one of North America's largest energy and energy-related services providers with more than 6 million residential and commercial customer relationships. Direct Energy provides customers with choice and support in managing their energy costs through a portfolio of innovative products and services. A subsidiary of Centrica plc (LSE:CNA), one of the world's leading integrated energy companies, Direct Energy operates in 45 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia and 10 provinces in Canada.

SOURCE Ontario Association of Food Banks

For further information:

Bill Laidlaw
Executive Director
Ontario Association of Food Banks
416-656-4100

Crystal Jongeward
Direct Energy
416-590-3248
crystal.jongeward@directenergy.com

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Ontario Association of Food Banks

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