The Rotary Club of Stratford is partnering with the Local Community Food Centre to provide fresh, healthy food that will be distributed across six local food banks.
Rotary has committed $1,000 a month for the next three years. The food centre will use the money to acquire goods for its distribution centre.
“We are incredibly grateful to Rotary for reaching out partner with us on this project,” says food centre director Steve Stacey. “This funding will greatly enhance our ability support the food banks in Stratford with healthy food.
“It is an unfortunate situation where the pressure on the food banks continues to increase in Ontario and Canada,” he adds. “Until we are able to eliminate poverty it is important that we support low income families with quality food that promotes their health and dignity.”
With 11 per cent of Perth County residents reporting a lack of access to sufficient food, and 12 per cent living below the poverty line, Rotary felt compelled to understand how it could make a meaningful impact in an acute local problem.
Already a supporter of regular food drives, the Rotarians sought to understand the underlying nature of the problem.
Rick Orr and Jim Hayes led Rotary’s research into the issue, and reported to the club that the weekly cost to feed a family of four has skyrocketed in the last five years by almost 20 per cent to $191.
The increase in costs is unsustainable for many families, and food banks have become a bridge when household incomes are insufficient to meet the need.
Rotary was particularly drawn to the food centre’s model of food distribution, using bulk purchasing power to make healthy options such as vegetables and meat available to the distribution centres.
The centre’s mandate of addressing the underlying issues of chronic hunger, poverty and poor health, was also of critical importance to the partnership.
“I am proud of my fellow Rotarian’s commitment to the issues facing our community,” says Rotary president Charlene Gordon.
“It is exciting to fund infrastructure investments or projects focused on underserviced or international populations, but it is critical that we also address the sometimes invisible but very real issue of poverty and hunger among our neighbors.”
Ryan Erb, executive director of the Perth Huron United Way – which supports the food centre – echoes Gordon’s sentiment.
“Rotary’s commitment to this important aspect of community health gives us a real chance to make impactful change of a growing problem.”