Better Together: Sharing Nutritious Food through Community Partnerships

As the regional leader in fresh food rescue and sharing we collaborate with other social service agencies in every city we serve, providing a fresh food option that otherwise wouldn’t exist.

“When I joined Food for Life four years ago, I was tasked with bringing on more community partners around the idea of ‘together we can support more people’,” says Donna Slater, Director of Impact at Food for Life. “It became a push to work with the people who are already serving those in need,” she says, adding the importance of everyone having access to healthy food, especially those dealing with limited or fixed income, addictions, housing, or other life challenges.

Over the past four years, Food for Life has doubled the number of agencies we support. Key partnerships include running Food for Life programs in seniors’ buildings and working with recreation departments in cities to provide food accessibility to children and youth enrolled in recreational programming.

Food for Life partnerships may look different from one another; however, they all use collaboration to source and share good food for those who need it most.

“Many programs have started food hubs or little food programs,” says Slater. “Outreach workers now know there’s food in the fridge at their social service agency where they can grab some things. When they’re going out to see their client, so they have food to bring with them.” For a lot of agencies, these partnerships have allowed them to engage in more meaningful ways.

Meeting local needs while staying true to our mission is vital. With the increasing need in the community we have community partners coming to us saying, ‘We want to help people in our community through a certain program, how do we work with you to be able to bring this program to fruition?’” says Slater.

“We rescue and share millions of pounds of good food each year, but our real goal is to help people help themselves out of poverty and the challenges associated with it”

Donna Slater

Together we look at a program from all aspects and using our 25 years of service and expertise in food rescue and distribution we bring the right people to the table to help find sustainable and the most impactful solutions.

During Covid-19 this process has resulted in turning rescued food into meals that are shared through community partners and another is using our good food as an economic lever to help young families supported by another amazing community partner, Home Suite Hope.

As a collaborative leader, we continue to work together with other food supports like local food banks to get as much fresh food as possible to those who need it in the Region. Slater says that often food banks are on the outskirts of communities or they’re in industrial areas, making multiple trips difficult for those who don’t have access to a car or reliable public transportation. By working with many partners we ensure that people have access to fresh food.

From the first loaf of bread rescued in 1995 Food for Life now partners and supports more than 100 community food programs across Halton. Over the last 25 years, Food for Life has seen a lot of changes and notes how some communities are well supported and others need focused support. “There’s a lot of food support in Burlington, but then there’s Milton,” says Slater, noting that there is only one food bank in the rapidly changing city. “There are a lot of houses, but there’s not a lot of community space,” she says, adding that the Food for Life program operating out of Milton Bible Church hands out about 225 fresh food bags to those who need them, a number that’s much higher than other similar programs.

Food for Life serves everyone from all backgrounds without any need to ‘qualify’ for assistance. Our model is we work with community partners, and many times it’s been churches as they are a natural location to host a neighbourhood food market as they have space, volunteers, parking, and are often on transit routes.”

While Food for Life started in Halton, we know the need for food support is further reaching. For many years, we have been a supportive partner with many nonprofits in Hamilton including Neighbour 2 Neighbour, The Kingsway, Hamilton Food Share, and many others.

“We rescue and share millions of pounds of good food each year, but our real goal is to help people help themselves out of poverty and the challenges associated with it,” says Slater.

We know we’re better together. That’s why we’re committed to continuing to grow partnerships with agencies in the Halton and Hamilton areas, using our combined strengths to make sure that none of our friends and neighbours go hungry as we strive to help reduce the need for our charitable services.