Food for Life has grown into the largest food recovery program in Halton Region bringing fresh and nutritious food to those in need.
Food for Life started from very modest beginnings in 1995 when an Oakville resident, George Bagaco, recognized how many people were in need of fresh, nutritious food. George would stop at a bakery on his way home from work and fill his trunk with baked goods. He distributed the surplus goods to needy families in his neighborhood. His program grew as he began to deliver to other neighbourhoods, with the support of the Rotary Clubs, which donated a vehicle, and Kerr Street Ministries, which provided warehouse space. Food for Life hired its first staff members: a driver for the delivery van, and a part-time Executive Director to help run the organization.
Food for Life Canada was officially incorporated in 2003 as a registered charitable organization. This date also marked the beginning of a period of tremendous growth. By this time, Food for Life had already established a number of partnerships with local social service agencies, to whom they would deliver food on a weekly basis. These agencies, who had previously had to purchase all their food, were able to focus more of their resources on their primary service. Food for Life continued to expand their network of partner agencies to over 30.
In 2006, Food for Life initiated a collaborative process with many of these agencies and other food banks in the Region to identify how to better work together to collect and deliver even more food throughout the Region. The end result was the creation of a new Food for Life program called ReFresh Foods, which was specifically focused on collecting large volumes of food from the corporate food sector (wholesalers, distributors, manufacturers). Through a generous donation from the Sprott Foundation, ReFresh Foods acquired its own pick-up and delivery vehicle – a hybrid truck, the first of its kind to be used by a charity in Canada.
With the rapid expansion of the volume of food being collected and the growth in the food recipient partners, Food for Life secured 6,000 square feet of warehouse space in Burlington to house the organization. This space enabled Food for Life to centralize all operations and receive shipments of food that no other food recovery program in Halton Region could accommodate.
Over the past three years, Food for Life has gone full circle – re-invigorating the outreach component of their service, just as it had started with George Bagaco 15 years before. Outreach programs, located throughout Halton Region, are hosted in a community based facility (church, community centre) and operated by a team of volunteers who organize the delivery of the food and the re-distribution to families in need.
In 2014/15, Food for Life Canada distributed over 2.2 million pounds of food, all donated by our many generous suppliers. This food, which would have otherwise gone to waste in a landfill, has a retail value of over $5 million. Food for Life was also named as a “Top Pick” in Charity Intelligence's (Ci) 2012 report, identifying Food for Life as one of the top-performing charities in Canada. Food for Life is very proud and honoured to be chosen as one of the 45 Top Pick Charities by Ci; one of only 7 food banks chosen from across Canada.
In 2016, Food for Life successfully demonstrated compliance with rigorous national standards in the New National Accreditation Program. This program, developed for Canada's Charitable and Nonprofit Sector, was launched in 2012 by Imagine Canada. We are one of 175 non-government agencies to receive accreditation by Imagine Canada.
In 2014, Food for Life will distribute close to 2 million pounds of food.
To source and distribute fresh, nutritious food to those in need through community partnerships.
Food for Life holds a unique niche among Canadian food relief charities in that we focus on redistributing fresh, nutritious food as opposed to traditional food bank fare such as canned goods. Our clients tell us that they are often not able to afford fresh food and that having access to this healthy food allows them to focus on obtaining other life essentials as they work towards no longer relying on our services.
While the type and amount of food that Food for Life redistributes may differ from our beginnings in 1995, our core values and focus remain remarkably unchanged. We continue to proudly be a volunteer-powered, grassroots-driven organization led by a small staff. Food for Life employs just 7 full-time staff yet utilizes approximately 800 volunteers from the community to mobilize our mission. Food for Life thrives on the spirit of teamwork with an unparalleled network of support from individuals, corporations and foundations in the Halton region - we are defined by our collaboration. Through our trusted alliance, Food for Life is able to turn every $1 donated into $15.40 worth of food.
Data collected from Food Bank Canada's annual HungerCount Survey indicates that our community agencies and outreach programs now receive more than 38,000 client visits per month compared to 27,222 in the previous year. Every day, Food for Life collects surplus perishable food (fruit and vegetables, dairy, meat and prepared foods) from both retail and wholesale food suppliers and grocery stores and is the largest food recovery organization in Halton region. This year, Food for Life will distribute close to 2 million pounds of donated food from our partners directly into the hands of the hungry throughout our community. Food for Life continues to refine our operation in order to support the increasing demand for healthy food for those in need.
Food for Life's mandate reaches far beyond helping those at risk of hunger in Halton region as we are interested in doing it in the most responsible way possible. While we understand the environmental impact of having three trucks on the road seven days a week picking up and delivering food, we were fortunate enough to broker a deal to operate one of the first hybrid diesel/electric medium duty trucks sold in Ontario. By diverting good food from landfills and reducing greenhouse gases, Food for Life’s environmental impact is equivalent to taking 250 cars off the road for one year. Furthermore, since our inception in 1995, Food or Life has diverted over 10 million pounds of food from landfills which equates to 235 dump trucks full of healthy, nutritious food.
The People Involved
- Brenda Hajdu email@example.com
- Donna Slaterfirstname.lastname@example.org
- Mike Deyoemail@example.com
- Sarah Wolffirstname.lastname@example.org
Community Engagement Coordinator
- Meaghan Richardson email@example.com
Food Procurement Manager
- Ron Hiegelsbergerfirstname.lastname@example.org
Food for Life Driver
- John Sharp
Food for Life Driver