Six days a week, fifteen Winnipeg Harvest trucks gather donated, quality food from retail partners. Collectively, they make nearly 1,000 pickups a month, distributing food to over 400 agencies across the province.
These donations, supplied by generous shoppers and waste-conscious retailers, make up a large portion of the food that Winnipeg Harvest receives and serves to the nearly 64,000 Manitobans that rely on food banks every month.
The food that shoppers donate to store bins is vital, says Winnipeg Harvest CEO Keren Taylor-Hughes. "That's a big part of how we have food to distribute," she says.
But the need for food is growing. From 2008 to 2016, Manitoba's food bank usage grew 53 per cent. Over 40 per cent of those served are children. With an increasing need for more food banks around the city, Winnipeg Harvest faces a higher demand for food deliveries.
To help ease this demand, Manitoba Blue Cross has sponsored a new food delivery truck, the sixteenth in the fleet. We are pleased that the truck is now on the road, and we're able to help fight hunger one delivery at a time.
"Having a new vehicle makes a huge difference to us," says Taylor-Hughes. "We try to maximize our routes and leverage all the resources we have. But sometimes we just need another vehicle to ensure we can get to food banks on time."
While the truck is our latest contribution, Manitoba Blue Cross has been supporting Winnipeg Harvest for years. Since 2015, we've participated in Grow-A-Row, growing food on our rooftop and donating around 100 pounds each year.
We also donated 500 pounds of food during last spring's food drive, and we supported last fall's Empty Bowls Soup-er Lunch.
But while food donations are critical, Winnipeg Harvest couldn't operate without committed volunteers.
In 2017, volunteers donated 166,245 hours of their time – equivalent to 80 full-time jobs. They do everything from driving trucks to sorting food to coordinating events.
"Whether you're four or ninety-four, there's always a role, says Taylor-Hughes. "That's the beautiful thing about Harvest – everyone can help."
Last year these volunteers helped Winnipeg Harvest move over 11 million pounds of food – the equivalent of around one thousand African elephants.
But Winnipeg Harvest's role doesn't end there, says Taylor-Hughes.
"We're much more than a food bank," she says. "Our number one business is collecting and distributing food, but we really try to train and empower people to get them back into the workforce."
Winnipeg Harvest's continually expanding training programs include custodial, customer service, warehouse and kitchen skills. By the time a client is finished an approximately two-month program, they're prepared to look for work at one of Harvest's large retail partners.
It's another way for Winnipeg Harvest to accomplish their ultimate vision – a community that no longer requires the services of a food bank.
To learn more about Winnipeg Harvest – including how to donate food, money or your time, visit Winnipeg Harvest's website.