Coordinating crop donations for Canadians in need

Canadians who visited their local food bank in the fall of 2021 might not have realized that some of the fresh fruits and vegetables available to them had been donated by the Government of Canada.

A team with a crate of apples.

Thousands of pounds of potatoes, carrots and apples made their way to Food Banks Canada and, ultimately, Canadians in several communities, as a result of a joint effort between 2 government organizations. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) worked with GCSurplus, a team within Public Services and Procurement Canada that divests federal surplus goods, to pilot the initiative.

The federal food donation program has since been extended, in keeping with the government's efforts to reduce food waste while supporting Canadians coping with the pandemic and other hardships.

The crop chronicles

It may not be a widely known fact, but the Government of Canada produces food under its mandate to support the agriculture and agri-food sector.

“Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada grows various crops across Canada as part of our research and development initiatives,” explains Leanne Wilson, Associate Director at AAFC’s St. John’s Research and Development Centre. Sometimes, as was the case last year, there is a surplus of certain crops.

There is nothing to prevent the high-quality crops grown in AAFC research and development centres from feeding Canadians. All it takes is a partner who can manage the logistics of the distribution and has the systems to track the goods, which is where the expertise of GCSurplus came in.

GCSurplus researched options for the equitable distribution of the AAFC crops and decided to approach a “well-established organization, with the proper supply chains, which could manage perishable food easily and efficiently,” says Josée Doucet, Senior Director of GCSurplus. “While we didn’t take possession of and move the crops, the team was instrumental in making the connections happen and selecting the channel we would use to divest the food, in a manner that ensured we could get it quickly to Canadians all over the country.”

Thanks to these collaborative efforts, Food Banks Canada received significant donations of fruits and vegetables from AAFC research stations across the country, ranging from St. John's in Newfoundland to Summerland in British Columbia, and the produce was able to reach residents in need from coast to coast.

The crops made a big difference in these communities, where some members are experiencing food insecurity. “The healthy produce donated by the program allowed some fortunate food banks to add to their fresh offerings,” notes Kirstin Beardsley, Chief Executive Officer of Food Banks Canada. “Fruits and vegetables are expensive, and clients appreciate access to the rich harvest provided by your crop donations.”

Keeping crops coming to communities

As a result of the pilot program's success, the Government of Canada food donations will continue in 2022, when the crops heading to Canadian food banks, and people's dinner plates, could be expanded to include cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, blueberries, cherries, onions and dry beans.

The coordinating team

Beardsley says Food Banks Canada looks forward to the ongoing support and believes that participants in the program can “feel proud of supporting their neighbours in several communities in our country. Food banks constantly aim to offer fresher food, because fruits and vegetables help build a solid foundation of health and are highly desired by clients and their families.” She concludes by thanking the government for contributing to the “vision of a Canada where no one goes hungry.”

For its part, the government is “very excited about facilitating donations of surplus vegetables and fruits to Food Banks Canada for distribution to help Canadians in need,” says Doucet. “What a great way to give back, as a united public service, and provide overall value to Canada.”

With the help of GCSurplus, farm-to-table has a whole new meaning!

Visit GCSurplus to learn more about the divestment of surplus federal assets.

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