At the beginning of this summer, Fresh Food Weekly began receiving donated produce and bread items from local farmers and food businesses. Between June and September 2021, we received more than $50,000 worth of produce and baked goods, which is way more than I ever anticipated. Unfortunately we were asked to vacate our operating space by Oct. 1, 2021, even though we were delivering this donated food to 267 low-income families each week. Although we’ve had to shut down the program, the space we were using was too small to meet our needs. As you can see in the video below, we had to start using shelves, chairs and couches to organize the food orders on.
The Search for Space
In my search to find a new space, I’ve reached out to every church in Barrie but unfortunately, none were able to help. Some of them did try though, but when I told them I needed at least 1500 square feet, and access to it every day, and that I needed the space to be on ground level, they simply couldn’t accommodate.
I also reached out to every single funding organization in Simcoe County and about 10-15 in Toronto. But because I don’t have charitable status yet, none of them were able to provide any funding so I could lease a new space. I also reached out to the Office of Doug Downey, Doug Shipley, John Brassard, Andrea Khanjin and even the Office of Justin Trudeau, but none were able to help. Although Andrea Khanjin’s office did write a letter of support, which I submitted to the Charities Directorate at the CRA. The letter asked them to hurry along my application so I can apply for charitable grants. A couple days later, the CRA called me and told me they would not hurry along my application and it didn’t matter who was asking and I’m not even allowed to harass them about it until January 2022.
I also reached out to all the City of Barrie Ward Councillors and Ann-Marie Kungl was the only one who even responded! She has been great - she immediately organized a BUGs meeting (Barrie Urban Gardener’s), which had representatives from Urban Pantry, the City of Barrie Parks & Rec, the Barrie Food Bank, the Muskoka District Health Unit, Living Green, and others, in attendance. However, none of these organizations had any space to provide.
Now it’s been a few weeks since our last delivery day (Sept. 26th) and I’ve been busy trying to get the word out: I’ve done a couple interviews with Barrie Today, the Star, Barrie 360 News, and I even did an interview on CBC radio. The part about Fresh Food Weekly begins at time stamp 2:03!
I also launched a crowdfunding campaign but unfortunately that is not going very well either.
After saying all of this, I am not giving up hope! There are no other programs quite like this one available in our community and there are thousands of families who need it. With the success that this program has had in only four short months, it would be irresponsible for me to stop the grind of finding a new home.