There’s been a lot of discussion lately about food insecurity, and how the pandemic has impacted how people can get safe, nutritious and affordable food. To that end, a virtual announcement this morning put the spotlight on four Guelph organizations receiving a combined $60,334 from the Federal government to purchase new equipment for the preparation, refrigeration and storage of food.
“We saw the need going through the development of the Food Policy to reach out to vulnerable people in our community,” said Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield. “Reducing food insecurity and strengthening our local food capacity is something that we’ve been doing for years in Guelph, and it’s so good to now have the Federal government in a position to help us with the work that’s already going on in our community.”
That help is the Local Food Infrastructure fund, a five-year, $50 million program to help community-based non-profits eliminate food insecurity. The first round of funding, which was launched last summer, asked for applications for projects costing a maximum of $25,000.
“These are projects aimed at providing safe and reliable equipment to ensure food security for those that need it most in our community, and they’re directly related to the accessibility of healthy, nutritious, and, ideally, locally-produced food,” Longfield added.
The 10C Shared Spaces is receiving $24,136 to go to the completion of their community kitchen, a project that has been a few years in the making with the support of the Ontario Trillium Fund and internal fundraising, but 10C was still a few important pieces away from completing their kitchen.
“There were a few core infrastructure pieces we needed to be able to work with partners more effectively, and the first big one was a tilt skillet, which is essentially a 30-litre pan that can cook things very rapidly and do larger quantities of food,” said Julia Grady, the executive director of 10c.
The money will also allow 10C to replace a 35-year-old six-burner gas range, as well as some dehydration elements, which should all make it easier for partner agencies to do more meal and food prep at that one location. “We envision rolling this together to support our partners and users at the kitchen so that they can have high-quality equipment and large-scale cooking and provide more products that can be bundled up and be easily used by various participants,” Grady added.
The Guelph Food Bank will be spending $25,000 on a new walk-in freezer that will increase their capacity, but will also replace an under-performing piece of equipment that was terrible out of date. “The old freezer was from the old Zehr’s store that was here years and years ago, so it was already 40 years old when we got it, and it was definitely on its last legs,” said Pauline Cripps, the administrator of the Guelph Food Bank. “We had to replace the condenser about three times, and they don’t exactly make them anymore.”
The Children’s Foundation of Guelph and Wellington received $6,000, which will be used for the purchase of fridges and freezers so that they can hold on to perishable foods longer, while Chalmers received $5,198 to buy two industrial-sized fridges, one for their downtown location, and one for their west end location.
“We’ve got fridges of many different vintages, and not only will the new fridges add capacity because they’re taller and bigger, but they will also consume less energy, which I think is helpful, and they will probably require a great deal less maintenance,” said Peter Gill, the volunteer executive director of Chalmers Community Services Centre.
These four Guelph projects are part of a series of 362 projects totaling $6.6 million in funding for this first phase. The second phase will open the door to projects looking for funding to a maximum of $250,000 including urban gardens, community kitchens, food banks, and greenhouses.
“I am pleased to congratulate the first round of recipients in Guelph and to launch the second call for proposals of the program, which opens the door to a cluster of organizations who are ready to enhance their regional food systems, and will help recipients continue their great work,” said Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau in a statement.
Grady said that Guelph groups will be meeting virtually on Friday to start looking at projects for this next phase, and capitalize further on the work being on food security throughout Guelph and Wellington.
“It’s impossible for a lot of these organizations to get programs together with no core infrastructure,” Grady said. “Hopefully there will be multiple solid applications from Guelph and Wellington. I think there will definitely be food-related, urban agriculture-related, and food processing-related applications coming forward.”