The need for food security for Sault Ste. Marie’s hungry is clear, and with that, the United Way Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma District held a luncheon and open house Thursday to celebrate the successful launch of its Harvest Algoma Food Resource Centre, located in the former Canadian Croatian Hall at 446 Second Line East.
“The food resource centre’s role is to receive, process, store and distribute (donated) food from a variety of sources to agencies that need food, like food banks or soup kitchens or residential support agencies like Women In Crisis or Breton House,” said Mike Delfre, Harvest Algoma director of operations, speaking to SooToday.
Other groups and individuals which may benefit include, for example, The Indian Friendship Centre and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) clients, Harvest Algoma officials said.
A key point to remember, Delfre said, is “we are not a food bank.”
Food donated to Harvest Algoma comes from sources such as Loblaws and charitable organizations such as Connecting the Dots, Delfre said.
“Then, we’ll store it and distribute it to agencies that need it or we’ll process it, make it into soups or stews or bake it, and then distribute that or keep it until agencies need it, which could be a month or two from now,” Delfre said.
The former Canadian Croatian Hall has the capacity to do so, with its fully equipped kitchen, freezers and shelves.
The Sault’s Croatian community is looking for a new cultural centre, either by constructing another building or purchasing an existing one.
“We’ve got land out back that we can put greenhouses on...it’s all going to be connected here at this facility for food security, and there will be training for people who want to learn how to garden, cook or preserve food. It can be for business incubation for people who have food product ideas, all of that is part of our plan,” Delfre said.
The Croatian community put the building up for lease, and after the United Way reached out and informed them of their vision for a food security outlet, a 10-year lease was signed with the community earlier this year, with the United Way having the option of buying the building within the first two years, Delfre said, adding the United Way is appreciative of the Croatian community’s help.
“We hope to raise the money to be able to buy this facility,” Delfre said.
The United Way’s Harvest Algoma Food Resource Centre opened in mid-July.
Information provided by the the United Way Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma District Thursday stated 8,250 pounds of food had been donated to the centre as of Sept. 6.
A total of 14,000 pounds of food has been donated to the centre in the past three months, Delfre said.
“We were processing food the first week. We were getting donations from the Food Bank Farm on Maki Road, so we either processed that and distributed it to the Soup Kitchen and put more of it in the freezer and will distribute it later in the year when they need it,” Delfre said.
“What it’s showing me is that the community has tremendous capacity and what it really needs is a facility like this and some organization and leadership, and the players are starting to come together and work together now.”
According to the United Way Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma District, 13 per cent of the Sault and Algoma population struggles with poverty-related issues such as hunger.
One in 21 people are unemployed, 10,294 families are using social assistance, 337 low income seniors are supported by United Way direct services, with 1,032 low income families provided with assistance by United Way direct services.
The Harvest Algoma Food Resource Centre is also looking for volunteers.
Anyone interested in donating food or volunteering may contact the centre at 705-253-0273.