The Drive Away Hunger Campaign was a success despite the challenges of COVID-19
By Jackie Clark
Farm Credit Canada (FCC) recently wrapped up the 17th iteration of their Drive Away Hunger campaign, donating a total of over 17 million meals to food banks and feeding programs across Canada.
Though this event occurs annually, this year’s COVID-19 pandemic both heightened the need for the drive and shook up the logistics of the campaign.
“We really had to shift quite a bit, given the need to be physically distant,” Carla Warnyca, the manager of community investment at FCC, told Farms.com.
“We used to run tractor and trailer tours across the country and we would also go to schools and pick up donations there, go to partners and pick up donations from them, do lots of events like barbecues to raise food and money for local food banks,” she explained. “Because of the pandemic, we weren’t able to do any of those things this year … so we really shifted to put our entire focus on developing more partnerships for the program and really building the ones that we did have already.”
Partners include a range of players, from small local businesses to big multinationals, who get involved to donate food and funds.
“We’ve just got amazing partners. It’s really the agriculture and food industry coming together and showing how incredibly generous they are and how community-minded they are as well, to show up in a really big way this year,” Warnyca said. “We have some new (partners) on board, like BASF Canada – they came on board this year to join our drive.”
Distribution of donations “is completely donor choice,” she added. “One hundred per cent of what they donate goes to whatever food bank or feeding program they choose, whether it’s cash or food.”
Some donors choose to give locally in their own communities, where they have business or home offices. Others “decide to give to Food Banks Canada and then they know that their donation will go wherever it’s needed most,” Warnyca said. “It varies from organization to organization, but they all get to choose.”
This year, due to the pandemic, more Canadians are experiencing hunger. Statistics Canada ran a web panel survey from May 4 to 10 that found almost one in seven Canadians (14.6 per cent) were living in a household that had experienced food insecurity in the previous month. That number is significantly higher than a web panel survey from 2017-18 that reported 10.5 per cent of Canadians had experienced food insecurity in the previous 12 months.
Research has shown that web-based hunger surveys generally result in a conservative estimation, due to under-representation from populations vulnerable to food insecurity, so the need is likely even greater than these numbers indicate.
“Hunger is definitely one of our funding focus areas. We’re in a pretty unique position that we’re part of the agriculture and food industry, and that we’re able to connect the people who grow the food with the people who really need it the most,” Warnyca explained. “That gives us the opportunity to be a real catalyst.”
The Drive Away Hunger campaign “is really important this year more than ever. Food banks across the country are really struggling with the decline in both volunteers and donations due to the pandemic,” she added. And the need has grown.
17,634,363 meals will be passed on to Canadians from food banks, as a result of this campaign.
“We’re the engine at FCC but it’s a testament to the agriculture and food industry, truly,” Warnyca said.
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