Past, Present and Future
Food for Life is the collaborative leader in sourcing, sorting and sharing fresh food in Halton Region and Hamilton. Through 107 Food for Life programs and agencies we serve more than 18,000 people struggling with hunger each month. In 2019, over 4 million pounds of food was collected and distributed.
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 neighbourhood. 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 its 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.
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 2017, 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 addition, in 2018, Food for Life was also named as a “Top 10 Charity” by Charity Intelligence, 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 top 10 Impact Charities by CI.
Food for Life Canada rescued and distributed over 4 million pounds of food in 2019, all donated by our many generous suppliers. This good quality, fresh food which has a retail value of over $10 million would have otherwise gone to landfill.
To source and share 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. 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 11 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 the equivalent of 4 meals.
Data collected from our annual Hunger Count Survey indicates that our community agencies and outreach programs now receive more than 62,000 client visits per month. 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 rescue organization in Halton and Hamilton
Food for Life’s mandate reaches far beyond helping those at risk of hunger in the 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 over 4 million pounds of good food last year, Food for Life was able to reduce the equivalent of 5.7 million kilograms of greenhouse gases. Furthermore, since our inception in 1995, Food or Life has rescued over 26 million pounds of food which is equivalent to over 37 million kilograms of greenhouse gases.