top of page

Meal Box Program

Between June 2022 and January 2024, Fresh Food Weekly operated the Fresh Food Weekly 'Meal Box Program' at Countryside United Church in Thornton, Ont., located 15 minutes south of the City of Barrie. To briefly summarize what we did throughout this period; we raised funds to buy fresh and locally-sourced food at wholesale, then packed this food into meal boxes and delivered these meal boxes to the front doorsteps of the same low-income households in Barrie and Innisfil, every other Tuesday afternoon and evening (between 4:00 PM and 7:00 PM). 

Our operational activities

Fresh Food Weekly Cycle

We
Gathered
Funds

We
Sourced
in Bulk

We
Fulfilled
Orders

We
Delivered
to Doorsteps

The cost of food to feed 90 households biweekly was $5,400.00 every four weeks. The majority of our income came from donations, while a small portion came from fundraising.

During our region's harvest months, the local agriculture economy produces a myriad of vegetables - mostly root and leafy greens thanks to The Holland Marsh. Throughout the entire year, though, grain products such as breads and baked goods were often donated in high quantities as well. However, human beings need more than just root vegetables and leafy greens to survive. They need protein and iron too and if disadvantaged population groups have any chance at improving their mental health, they must have paper. End of story. Since Fresh Food Weekly purchased in bulk just like grocery stores, it was possible to get the same prices as grocery stores, or even "at cost" prices depending on the supplier. These cost-savings enabled us to buy quality products and premium brands while still getting a great deal.

Fresh Food Weekly was focused on delivering fresh food that arrived in the same shape it was purchased in. To help us do that, a couple local businesses stepped up and provided the heavy-duty delivery bags and cardboard bread boxes needed to keep food intact during the delivery process.

Fresh Food Weekly didn't offer its program recipients pickup and only offered free delivery, every other Tuesday evening between 4PM and 7PM.  Fresh Food Weekly wasn't a food bank and didn’t store food. Instead, it was a food delivery service that operated in a similar way as Instacart. The only difference was, it was only for super low-income families.   Fresh Food Weekly knows that for low-income families, accessing fresh and nutritious food was and continues to be just as much of a barrier to accessing nutritious food as the barrier of coming up with the funds to pay for the food itself. That's why we made sure to include this mandatory operations element in our foundation's governing trust document.

Gleaning Fields

When Fresh Food Weekly first started giving out free fresh produce to low-income families, our first Holland Marsh farmer was Matt Reesor of ’Fresh Veggies at 60 Aileen’. Leah would actually go out on his fields and harvest the lettuce with him. 

 

From there, she’d take the lettuce and drop if off to the Barrie Community Fridge, where people were waiting for it since it came weekly at that time. Fresh Food Weekly was literally giving out produce that had been harvested within half an hour. 

Furthermore, Barrie Hill Farms in Springwater has a fantastic network of irrigation systems for their wide range of crops. They have many blueberries - it would take a few hundred volunteers at minimum, to glean their patches. 

Blueberries from gleaned blueberry patches at Barrie Hill Farms

Our meal boxes

What went in our meal box meal kits?

"We provided our recipients with fresh, high-quality foods from local suppliers and food businesses."

Meal Kits Items.png

Holiday Meal Boxes

Fresh Food Weekly also delivered special holiday meal boxes for Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. These meal boxes included twice as much food as our regular, on-going meal boxes - and therefore cost twice as much, but they included many holiday-specific items that we decided were holiday "must-haves". We also opened up the holiday meal boxes to anyone who was low-income in Barrie and Innisfil (not just disabled or elderly low-income families). Please note, at Christmas time especially, food donations skyrocket. 

Easter

Easter meal box items

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving meal box items

Christmas

Christmas Meal Box items

Our recipient responsibilities

Program recipients fill out food order forms.

Food Order Forms

Each meal box was planned out in advance - but not too far out in advance because you can never count of food prices staying the same for long. Each month, all the meal boxes for that month were planned at the same time. There were usually just two delivery days each month but some months had three. For each meal box, recipients were required to fill out a food order form, as to reduce as much food waste as possible, as well as because of the variant choices offered. For example, there were many types of milk and bread variants offered, and recipients also always had the choice of not choosing to receive something if they didn’t like it as well. Additionally, we would sometimes offer recipients their choice of one out of two items. However, we only did this once with fruit because we knew that 90 per cent of recipients wanted both and it felt awful making them choose just one. We decided only to do this with some vegetables like brussels sprouts because we knew a large portion of recipients wouldn’t eat them; so we gave the option of brussels sprouts or broccoli. Programs that offer choices between items recipients are familiar with, as well as items they’re less likely to have been exposed to, will increase their likelihood of trying it. Food order form emails also included each form's deadline submission date, and any other program updates or information they needed to know. Upon submitting food order forms, recipients would receive an automated confirmation email with their delivery day details, which included the same delivery time frame of: “sometime between 4:00 PM and 7:00 PM”. Recipients also received a reminder email the day before each delivery day with a more accurate estimated time of delivery, which would be a one-hour time frame. However, there was always a “please note” area explaining that their meal box delivery could be late due to things like traffic (especially in the summer on weekends), when volunteers have to work later than they expected or just don’t show up or have legitimate cancellations, or because of bad weather. In fact, Leah was literally in the middle of doing deliveries in Barrie when the EF2 Tornado hit in July 2021. She was driving northbound on HWY 400 and saw about 20 ambulances fly past her southbound moments after the radio's tornado warning issued said a tornado might be touching down nearby.

Program recipients receive Meal Boxes.

Receive Meal Box

People were only eligible for the meal box delivery program if they had a home. Not only did the majority of food items delivered require refrigeration and/or freezing, they also included all the ingredients needed to make a meal. Therefore, being on this program also required recipients to have cookware, cooking appliances and adequate food storage capabilities. Program recipients were also required to have someone home to receive their meal box, or they could arrange to have it delivered to a friend or family member instead, if they already knew in advance that they weren’t going to be home on a delivery day. The reason we required someone to be home to receive their meal box is because of the amount of refrigerated and frozen food that could have gone bad if it was left in the sun for too long on a hot summer day, or left at the door base inside an apartment building. Furthermore, meal boxes left unattended could get stolen, and Leah was adamant with recipients about not wasting perfectly good food when there were hundreds of other people waiting to be on the program, who were more than happy to make themselves, or someone in their household, or even someone they knew and trusted, available for one hour every other Tuesday evening to receive their fresh food meal box delivery. Some people have asked about making the process of filling out food order forms simpler by having some sort of food preferences profile, and eliminate the need to fill out biweekly food order forms altogether. However, we noticed a direct correlation between the date recipients submitted their biweekly food order forms and the recipients who didn’t receive a meal box because they weren’t home. The recipients who filled out their food order forms as soon as they were available never seemed to miss a delivery. The ones who were constantly forgetting to fill out their forms, were also constantly forgetting to answer their door when their driver knocked, or answer their phone when their driver called. We've learned that if recipients can’t be bothered to submit a food order form that takes less than two minutes to fill out, they’re unlikely to be bothered to remember to be home for one-hour every other Tuesday, even with the reminder sent the day before. What If Their Mental Health Caused A Receiving Problem? If, for whatever reason, a recipient wasn’t able to receive a meal box, i.e., they had a legitimate memory problem (this is a bad example but it’s an example nonetheless), and if they had parents in town, we would arrange to have their meal boxes delivered to their parents address instead. Of all the recipients on our program, we did this for two recipients. And for a third recipient, we dropped his meal box off to his referring agency since he wasn't good at receiving his meal box. He also didn’t have a cell phone or landline, and it was impossible to get ahold of him at all times. What About Missed Deliveries? Recipients could reach out to Leah no earlier than two hours after their one-hour estimated delivery time frame to inform her of their delivery not showing up. Of all the deliveries we did, only one was missed and it was delivered the next day by an Instacart. We decided to just buy the exact same items from the grocery store since we gave away all the extra food to other local charities the night before.

Program recipients Cook Meals delivered.

Cook Meals

We also noticed that many of our program recipients enjoyed cooking meal box meals and providing pictures of their final product. Many recipients would take pictures of their cooked meals and either post it directly to Leah’s Facebook wall, or text it to her for her to post because they wanted to remain anonymous. This shows that recipients were taking pride in their newly acquired knowledge and cooking skillset. Peer affirmation on social media appears to be an effective driver to creating healthy eating habits among program recipients.

Chicken Parm

Chicken Parmesans made by recipients of the Fresh Food Weekly program.

Meatballs

Sweet n' Sour Meatballs made by recipients of the Fresh Food Weekly program.

Salmon

Salmon made by recipients of the Fresh Food Weekly program.

Lasagna

Lasagna made by recipients of the Fresh Food Weekly program.
Fresh Food Weekly recipients Eat Healthy Food

Eat Fresh Food

The goal of the meal box delivery program was to ensure low-income families received fresh food, could cook it, and eat meals at home. Were There Many Complaints? Oh yes. But there were way more gratitudes and thank-you’s. The best part about the meal box program is the feeling you get when they see the look on someone’s face upon delivery; the look of pure relief.

Other operations & partners

Our impact

Between June 2022 and January 2024, Fresh Food Weekly hosted 36 delivery days which resulted in the delivery of 2,867 fresh food meal boxes. Each meal box had an average value offering of $104. 

In 2022, Fresh Food Weekly did monthly meal box deliveries.

In 2023, Fresh Food Weekly did biweekly meal box deliveries. 

During these 19 months of delivering fresh food to low-income families for free, Fresh Food Weekly spent $93,282.07 on the food given. 

Cost of Food
Value of Food

This food was valued at $362,500.00.

Here's a breakdown of what we gave:

Milk Cover Image 3000 x 1080 px.png

Milk

Milk & Cream: Cost & Value

Dairy: Cost and value

Between June 2022 and January 2024, we spent $12,836 on milk and cream at wholesale, which saved us $4,075.00 because we're able to buy in bulk.

Milk & Cream: Litres Delivered

Dairy: Litres Delivered

For Fresh Food Weekly, $13K = 8,000 litres of milk and cream.

Timeline to Deliver 8,000L

Dairy Products Delivered
Butter Variant Percentages.png

Butter Preferences

Butter Cover Flipped.png

Butter: Cost & Value

Butter: Cost and value delivered

For Fresh Food Weekly, $8,700 = 1,700 lbs of butter.

Butter: Pounds Delivered

Pounds of butter delivered to low-income families in Barrie and Innisfil, for free

Between June 2022 and January 2024, we spent $8,755 on butter at wholesale, which saved us $6,761 because we're able to buy in bulk.

Cheese Doctor Cover.png

How much cheese did Fresh Food Weekly deliver in its community?

Cost and Value: Cheese
Cheese & Calcium Delivered

"Between June 2022 and January 2024, we delivered +500,000 grams of cheese throughout our community, for free."

Cheese Variants Delivered

Cheese Variants Provided

***Cheeses are in order of lowest calcium content [left] to highest calcium content [right].***

Timeline to Deliver 500,000g

Dairy Cost, value and litres

It took a while to find additional cheese variants at wholesale, but when we finally found a good price, we started offering additional types of cheese in our product offerings. 

Cheese Variant Preferences

Cheese Variant Preferences

When we finally did start offering these four cheese variants, Cheddar was by far the most popular option.

IMG_0986.jpg
Newmarket, Ontario.png
Eggs Delivered for Free

On-going produce donations

Timeline to Deliver +25,000 Eggs

Cheese cost, value and weight

Eggs are highly nutritional, easy to transport, easy to store and easy to deliver. They should always be included in every meal box delivery. 

Unlimited Vegetable Donations

x 648 heads

x 432 heads

x 816 stalks

x 3,816 lbs

or

x 3,483 lbs

x 791 squashes

Unlimited Vegetable Donations

These are all the produce items Fresh Food Weekly received on an on-going and unlimited basis, throughout each item's growing season. 

As you can see, we received an unlimited amount of carrots and onions year-round; so they were available throughout 100 percent of the year. However, we only offered these two items on a monthly basis. In the past, we had offered them more frequently and recipients found biweekly offering of carrots and onions to be too frequent. 

Leafy greens were freely available for 25 percent of the year, and celery was available for an additional three weeks each year since it's growing season is slightly longer. Recipients enjoyed receiving romaine lettuce and their choice of either red or green leaf lettuce each delivery day though, throughout the summer months. 

Although apples are available at a significantly reduced price year-round, they're only donated during their growing season throughout the fall.

 

And finally, squashes are usually only available for two months of the year. Although the shelf life of squashes is longer than that of lettuce, recipients enjoyed receiving squashes as frequently as possible. However, the squashes make deliveries particularly heavy. When we give carrots and onions, we give in two-pound quantities. Some squashes can weigh up to six pounds and offering even two squashes per household can become challenging for delivery drivers. 

Fruit offered

Fruits Year 1.png
Fruits Year 2.png

Vegetables offered

Vegetables Year 1.png
Vegetables Year 2.png

Grains offered

Bread Loaf Variants

Program recipients were eventually given 12 bread loaf variants to choose from: 

Bread Variants
Bread & Grains

Fresh Bread

With the exception of the Ozery Family Bakery mini pitas, all of the fresh breads delivered to recipients of the Fresh Food Weekly program came from Fox's Bakery & Deli in downtown Barrie

Furthermore, all of Fox's bakery breads were delivered on the same day they were baked because we wanted our recipients to receive the freshest food possible. If we're going to order bread anyways, why not just order it for the same day it gets delivered? 

Fresh Food Weekly's rule of thumb has always been to purchase foods using the same budget as the average annual income for working residents in the city. Simply put, the foods we give are the exact same foods you'd give yourself, assuming you have an average income. 

That being said, we know the average person doesn't only buy 'same-day baked bread'. However, it takes no extra effort or money to pickup bread in bulk on delivery days, so we might as well choose the fresher option because it's the more thoughtful thing to do. 

Here's a list of all our freshly baked bread items, both the on-going variant offerings as well as the one-time specialty/seasonal offerings that were delivered in meal boxes: 

Fresh Breads Pie Graph

Desserts offered

The majority of desserts Fresh Food Weekly offered were completely donated. We always made sure that program recipients were able to get some desserts included in all of the holiday meal boxes. 

Desserts Year 1.png
Desserts Year 2.png

Meats offered

How much did Fresh Food Weekly spend on meats?

Total Cost: $23,472.18

Total Value: $69,274.70

45% of the total meat value represents the portion of meats paid for.

Beginning in January 2023, Fresh Food Weekly started receiving weekly donations of various frozen meats donated by Nick's No Frills. Shortly after, Goodness Me! Natural Food Market started donated frozen meats as well. One of the really great ways local grocery stores supported Fresh Food Weekly was by freezing their meats the day before the expiry date. 

Meats Paid For.png

Non-perishables offered

Fresh Food Weekly offered various non-perishable items that either complimented the other items in the meal box, or were required for the specific recipe included in that delivery's meal box. 

Year 1 Non Perishables.png
Year 2 Non Perishable.png
We Need It.png

Fresh Food Weekly started including a six-pack of Costco toilet paper in monthly meal boxes right from the beginning.

In 2023 when we started doing biweekly deliveries, we continued to deliver toilet paper on a monthly basis.

Toilet paper

Costco Toilet Paper Delivered for Free
Fresh Food Weekly logo
bottom of page