Second Harvest


I am writing this post after volunteering with two different organizations:

  1. London and Region Food Bank
  2. Second Harvest’s Toronto Taste Event

Both of these organizations help fight against hunger, except in two different ways. One does it through non-perishable foods and the other does it through perishable foods. When I was volunteering with the London and Region Food Bank, I learned a few things:

  • People donate non-perishable goods that are sometimes “questionable” by the Food Bank’s standards
  • People try to donate fresh food (like turkeys during Thanksgiving)
  • Because of the lag between the time the food is donated and the time the donated food is actually sorted, some foods potentially expire (especially turkeys)
  • Most people volunteering at the Food Bank are either laid-off, retired, unemployed, actually use the Food Bank’s services/goods

These few things I learned in as little as short of two days, I began to question why people would donate food that they wouldn’t eat themselves. I say this because there was some food with an expiry date of 2005. Really, ask yourself, if you are not going to eat, why would you think that someone else would or that a social service agency would it give at to the people that use their services? I mean yes, you can donate food that is expired, because they will find some place to put it (like give it to pig farmers).

But really, if you are planning to move or clean out your cupboards, the quicker you can move your own food out of your own and into the use of someone else’s, do it and don’t wait 6+ years!

Before volunteering with London and Region Food Bank, I have had the opportunity to volunteer with Second Harvest in Toronto to help raise funds for their cause (and not just one time, but since 2009 I have been volunteering with them when I can–and I don’t even live in Toronto!).

This organization takes a different approach to fighting hunger, albeit at a much higher expense, detailed operations, etc. As taken directly from their site, they help pick up and deliver excess fresh food that would otherwise go to waste and deliver it to 250 social service programs in the Toronto region. This is completely different from what London and Region Food Bank is doing and I wondered if there was a program like this in London and Region and even if one would work.

Sure there might be meals-on-wheels, but this is mostly available for the elderly, disabled, or only those individuals that qualify. But what about those families or individuals who neither fit or meet any of the criteria for these programs? Or there is the farmers’ markets that are close by. But those are only available during growing seasons and during certain seasons, days, and hours, and what if you don’t live within walking distance or on public transportation route…hmmm

It made me wonder, as a new community member to the London region, what type of fresh food options are available for individuals/agencies that can use the help. Maybe I don’t know about these services because I have never heard of them, had to use them, or even saw a volunteer posting for them. With these being two different communities, with two very different organizations, with two very different ways of doing things, it also made me wonder if an idea, if not already in place, would exist like Second Harvest. Or would it hurt local farmers or other food-supplying agencies.

Because really, I thought it was an insult not to someone who needs to use the London and Region Food Bank but to the entire human race, that one would think their 6+ year expired foods would be eaten by someone else who didn’t have the means or funds to afford it on their own. (Seriously, what makes someone think “heck this is old, I can’t eat it… I will give it to someone who can’t afford to turn it away?”)

If there is one thing that I can take from both of these experiences is that, if you want to know more about your community and its community members (and not just the ones that will give you a job or get you to the top of where you want to be, but everyone) then it should be on everyone’s to do list: Donate, and if you can’t donate money…at least donate some of your time.

Note: At time of writing this post, I was not aware of any organization in the London and Region that delivers fresh food to social service agencies.