Prior to COVID-19, as many as one in seven local residents could not access the nutritious food they need to thrive. The pandemic has made the situation more severe according to the Vital Signs report on food insecurity.
While local food relief charities like The Seed moved quickly to restructure their programs, community members who felt able to help financially have stepped up, motivated in part by a donation matching commitment from Our Food Future.
“We have seen significant growth in our donor base from community members who want to make a contribution to this crisis,” says Julia Grady, who oversees the Harvest Impact fund. The fund was established by 10C in partnership with Our Food Future to support food security social enterprise projects, collect and distribute community donations.
“Every donation is a purposeful and significant gift from someone in our community. People should not think they need to write big cheques. Although those large donations are necessary, it’s in the power of our collective effort where we can lead real change.”
~ Julia Grady
For Ernst Braendli and his wife Susanne, the decision to become monthly donors came after they volunteered to distribute food with The Seed and learned more about the breadth of the need.
“They shared a report which claimed that thousands of people in Guelph are in need of food support. It’s very important for us that we add our support. We get so much out of volunteering. It is really enriching our lives. We are winning more here, more than we are giving,” says Ernst.
Rebecca Sutherns helps organize the Just Right fund at Grace Community Church, which allocates parishioner donations to individuals and charities in the community. The Seed was included in their 2020 donations.
“We debate our allocations carefully as we’re very conscious of stewarding people’s resources. We’re always looking for ways to leverage our funds and when we heard Our Food Future was matching donations, it was certainly a win, and really helped us."
They value The Seed’s commitment to social enterprise and inclusion, says Rebecca. “They strive to be creative and self funded where they can. They enable people to learn and participate in their programs. Their commitment is to improve lives with dignity. I’ve appreciated how they have adapted during COVID and that they think big and bold to meet increasing community needs.”
Lynn Woodford has seen first-hand an increase in community need. As a psychology and social work supervisor with the Upper Grand District School Board, she says many children and youth are struggling with food security.
“A lot of students and families are able to support their food security with food provided at schools. When the schools were shut down due to COVID, they didn’t have access to the food that they received at school. The food distribution programs help immensely. My professional work is around mental health and wellbeing and food is a foundation to wellbeing: we can draw a direct line, the pieces are tied together. It is important as a community to build that foundational piece, and it’s a responsibility that we all share,” says Lynn.
“I chose The Seed because I like the philosophy of empowering people, connecting people and building a community that is interwoven to support various needs and engage the people who have the means to support food security. It’s a philosophy of engaging with the voices of the people who have needs and working together to increase support. I was aware of the matching program. I know I would have donated anyhow but it’s nice to know that this is helping out even more.”
The Our Food Future donation matching commitment doubles all gifts received through the Harvest Impact Fund to a maximum of $90,000.