Huron County Distribution Centre, the Backbone to Our Local Food Banks
Working quietly behind our local food banks, is the United Way Perth-Huron’s supported partner, Huron County Distribution Centre for Food Banks and Agencies; trucking in supplies from Toronto and collaborating with local farmers and cooperatives to increase efficiencies across the two counties and to help bring food and supplies to our neighbours in need.
Since its inception in 2009, the Huron County Food Bank Distribution Centre has provided over 3 million pounds of food to the 10 food banks in Perth and Huron Counties. In 2016 alone, it supported 18,212 provision visits to these food banks; 32% of those were to feed children.
The distribution centre purchases, picks up and delivers the food circulated to their associate food banks in Huron and Perth Counties. Their focus is on fresh produce, fruits, meat, and now new to the program, bread, milk and eggs.
Mary Ellen Zielman, Executive Director of the center explained the program Neighbours helping Neighbours. “In 2007 local food banks asked for a distribution centre to provide assistance to them with food, as some of the food banks at that time were on the brink of closure due to lack of food for their shelves. This program was developed in response to their request, using the internal data provided by them. The county food banks provide us with monthly surveys reporting on the population in their area using the food banks, including regular increases. The program has grown considerably as the needs in the area have increased. Now located in a warehouse with room for expansion the distribution centre can continue to provide for the growing needs of the agencies we serve”.
The Distribution Centre works collaboratively with area producers, wholesalers, businesses, food banks, aid agencies and other regional distribution centres. Some examples of these partners are: our local produce growers who donate thousands of dollars of tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, turnips, cucumbers, strawberries, squash, broccoli, and more; Guardian Drugs who supplies us with milk and eggs at a reduced cost; Huron County Pork Producers who donate 4 hogs a month to HCFBDC; packagers who donate meat on a regular basis; and warehouses that believe in the cause of the Distribution Centre. These warehouse partners send tractor trailer loads of meat and food products to HCFBDC regularly and we pay only the trucking costs to get it here. Some drivers even donate back their delivery payment for these loads. The Distribution Centre (DC) have producers who provide products at substantially lower costs to the DC thereby creating a huge multiplication effect in the purchasing dollars. Our community partners continue to collaborate with the DC on how they can assist us to provide food for those in need in our communities.
Zielman shared how the organization is based on its people “There are so many wonderful people involved in the program. We have volunteers cumulatively providing over one hundred hours a week; I call them the best volunteers in Huron County! It’s such a tremendous community, pulling together to ensure those in need have access to what they need”. “We are also thankful to the United Way Perth-Huron. It’s through their financial support that we are able to run this program.”
Theresa McMurray, Executive Director of the Stratford House of Blessing shared, “the Huron County Distribution Centre has helped House of Blessing on many occasions by offering surplus items much needed by our clientele. We are thankful for having items that may not otherwise be easily obtained such as feminine hygiene products. The Neighbour Helping Neighbour Program allows everyone to benefit from the generosity of donors who value the needs of our communities”.
United Way supports nearly 50 organizations across Perth and Huron Counties. To help United Way meet the financial goal of $1,337,000 and continue supporting these local services, donations are gladly accepted in person at 32 Erie Street, Stratford, online at perthhuron.unitedway.ca or by calling 519-271-7730 / 1-877-818-8867.
For more information or to set up an interview with Ryan Erb, Executive Director, please call 1-877-818-8867 or 519-271-7730 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.