Ready, set, grow: Food Banks launch innovative new farm program

Community Harvest Ontario will increase fresh, local food donations by hundreds of thousands of pounds

MARKHAM, ON, July 14 /CNW/ - The Ontario Association of Food Banks launched Community Harvest Ontario, a major farm partnership program to dramatically increase the amount of fresh, healthy food acquired and distributed by food banks across the province through innovative partnerships between farmers, food banks, and corporate partners to grow, glean, and donate local fruits and vegetables. The program is generously supported by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation, the George Cedric Metcalf Charitable Foundation, Direct Energy, and many other partners. The initiative was launched at Whittamore's Farm in Markham.

"Community Harvest Ontario is an innovative, simple and effective solution in the movement towards a new focus for food banks to provide fresh, local food," said Adam Spence, Executive Director of the OAFB. "We are delighted to launch this program with the support of local foundations, farms, and community partners."

The first of its kind in Canada, this program provides the "technology" to acquire food through volunteer gleaning and harvesting, planned growing projects, and direct donations from local farmers. With local projects being coordinated in Toronto, London, Hamilton, Ottawa, and Thunder Bay, the objective is to increase fresh food for food banks by an additional 500,000 lbs in 2010 and an additional two million lbs annually by 2012. Community Harvest is on target to reach its goal for this year with 15 farm partners already in place across the province.

"The Community Harvest Ontario program connects food growers and food banks who share the same goal - feeding our families, friends, and neighbours," said the Hon. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. "With the support of this program, they will be able to work together to bring healthy, fresh food to those members of our communities who need it most."

The need for the program is great. Over 375,000 Ontarians are forced to turn to food banks every month across the province. In fact, 72% of Ontarians turning to food banks do not consume their required daily servings of fruit or vegetables. Hunger is a persistent problem, as food banks continue to feel the after-effects of the recession on the front line. This significant demand puts pressures on food supplies that were stretched during the recession by sharply rising numbers and closures of many major corporate food donors. Fortunately, the solution is in our own backyard: there is an available supply of high quality food and farmland that can help meet the need for food for low-income Ontarians. Over 25 million pounds of fresh nutritious food is disposed of or ploughed back into the soil on Ontario's farms every year. Community Harvest Ontario can ensure this food gets to people who need it most.

"This innovative project harnesses the passions of both rural and urban partners who care deeply about these issues and in an area like the Greenbelt, where country and city are side by side, clearly articulates how together they can create a better future," said Burkhard Mausberg, President of the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation.

Another important part of the program is growing partnerships, where a farm designates a growing plot for local food banks. For example, the OAFB has established a partnership with Plan B Organic Farms of Branchton to grow carrots, potatoes, onions, and green beans on 25 acres of land. Community Harvest Ontario also includes a major web component which will allow volunteer participants to create teams and raise funds online at Key focus days for volunteers include: Gleaning the Greenbelt Day (September 9th) and the Community Harvest Ontario Corporate Challenge (October 5th).

"Our partnership with, and support of, OAFB gleaning activities exemplify community investment in the truest sense of the word - the OAFB, farmers and volunteers coming together within the community to glean thousands of pounds of fresh food for local food banks," said Sharleen Mascoll, Manager, Corporate Social Responsibility of Direct Energy.

For more information on Community Harvest Ontario, please visit Media representatives can also download the program backgrounder (hotlink to: Launch and program photos will be available for download following the event. (hotlink to:


The Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB) is a network of 20 regional food banks and over 100 community food banks across the province from Windsor to Ottawa and Niagara Falls to Thunder Bay working towards a hunger-free Ontario. It is our mission to provide food, funding, and solutions to reduce hunger in the province. For more information about OAFB as well as hunger and poverty in Ontario, please visit


A leading grantmaker in Canada, the Ontario Trillium Foundation strengthens the capacity of the voluntary sector through investments in community-based initiatives. An agency of the Government of Ontario, OTF builds healthy and vibrant communities.


Wrapping around the Golden Horseshoe, the Greenbelt is 1.8 million acres of potential to make Ontario a better place. Encompassing the Niagara Escarpment, the Oak Ridges Moraine, Rouge Park, hundreds of rural towns and villages and thousands of farms, Ontario's Greenbelt is the largest and most diverse in the world. The Greenbelt Foundation began in June 2005 as an independent, charitable foundation with a mandate to promote and sustain our Greenbelt as a beneficial, valuable, and permanent feature, enhancing the quality of life for Ontario residents.


The Metcalf Foundation helps Canadians imagine and build a just, healthy, and creative society by supporting dynamic leaders who are strengthening their communities, nurturing innovative approaches to persistent problems, and encouraging dialogue and learning to inform action.


Direct Energy is one of North America's largest energy and energy-related services providers with over eight 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 46 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia and 10 provinces in Canada.

SOURCE Ontario Association of Food Banks

For further information: For further information: Tara Tassone, Development and Communications Coordinator, Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB), Work: 416.656.4100, x. 2933, Mobile: 416-797-5618, Email:; Adam Spence, Executive Director, Ontario Association of Food Banks, Mobile: 416-543-0897, Email:

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