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Spare Ontario vegetables helping feed Indigenous communities
Spare Ontario vegetables helping feed Indigenous communities

Planes and trucks transported produce to three First Nations communities

By Diego Flammini
News Reporter

Ontario’s agricultural community is giving back to families in need this Christmas season.

Growers who can’t sell their produce because of colour or size issues are donating carrots, onions and other vegetables to the Southwestern Ontario Gleaners, a volunteer organization that turns to fresh produce into dehydrated soup mixes.

The produce is “just big,” Alison Klasen, member of the Gleaners, told CBC on Dec. 13. “They would throw these (items) out.”

This season, more than 40,000 pounds and about 250,000 servings of food traveled approximately 1,000 kilometres by truck and another 500 kilometres by air to three First Nations communities in northern Ontario.

One of the communities, Marten Falls First Nation, is accessible by an ice road during the winter. The ice road should be safe enough to cross until February. When the ice melts, the community is only accessible by air.

Nearly 400 people in the community need food, so the shipment comes at a perfect time, says Lance Baxter, a resident of the Marten Falls First Nation.

“My community is in a crisis right now,” he told CBC on Dec. 16. “This (shipment of food) is going to be awesome – especially for the kids.”

For some residents, seeing the donations come in is their introduction to the type of farming that’s going on in other parts of the province.

“We don’t see carrots, we don’t have a farm,” Marilyn Wenjak told CBC. “It’s a dollar-and-a-half to bring in a pound (of food).”

The community of Eabametoong First Nation is trying to introduce agriculture into its landscape.

A local farm produced potatoes and the community has aspirations to grow strawberries and tomatoes, Harry Papah, a councillor with the First Nation, told CBC.

One of the challenges, he says, is that summers are too hot and farmers need sprinkler systems. But the only way to get them would be to shipment over the ice road.