Home Blog April 2021 Food Banks Canada and the Importance of Partnerships

Food Banks Canada and the Importance of Partnerships

Food Banks Canada and the Importance of Partnerships
Hunger affects 1 in 8 Canadian households, representing 4.4 million people; 34% of which are children.

Food Banks Canada and its network of 638 affiliate food banks across the country shares the weight of that burden. “Together, we play a critical, albeit unfortunate role in Canadian society,” states Kirstin Beardsley, Chief Network Services Officer at Food Banks Canada. “It is our job to help people in need by supporting local (food bank) organizations across the country with food sourcing, distribution, and vital services. Ultimately, we’re working towards a Canada where nobody goes hungry.”

The task to combat food insecurity is a challenging one on the best of days. Add a global pandemic into the mix and suddenly you’re faced with a mission that’s seemingly impossible.

However, that wasn’t going to stop Food Banks Canada from stepping into action. “One of my favourite food bankers is Bernadette in Kamloops,” says Kirstin. “Bernadette’s motto is if something is impossible, we’ll just do it anyway because that’s just what food bankers do. It’s that kind of dedication that keeps our team up at all hours thinking about how to solve the impossible. As the pandemic began sweeping the globe, our leadership team recognized early on how much of crisis this would be on our networks’ capacity to support people in need. So we knew we had to be prepared for any eventuality.”

This forward-thinking approach included establishing new key partnerships.

“We as an organization tend to deal more with social policy (such as Employment and Social Development Canada),” explains Kirstin. “However, as we continued to monitor the effect of the pandemic, it became increasingly apparent that we would also need to have solid relationships in Agriculture, as they take on the food security file for the nation.”

These important partnerships helped Food Banks Canada to lay essential groundwork for being able to handle the crisis that was to come.

So when everything in Canada began shutting down, the team was able to immediately recognize that not only were food drives going to stop, but supply chains were going to get muddled, real quick (due to people reacting in the moment by stock-piling groceries). This was going to create a unique crisis for food banks, the likes of which had never been seen before.

Knowing they had to immediately jump in to support their network, Food Banks Canada devised their most ambitious plan to date—an eleventh hour campaign with a goal of raising $150 million.

Tania Little, Chief Development and Partnerships Officer for Food Banks Canada, puts their audacious plan into perspective; “As an organization, we typically raise about $20 million in funds and $70-75 million worth of food in a year. So to launch a campaign where our goal is to raise 7.5 times more than usual, well, that should give you an idea as to how seriously big of an undertaking this is for us.”

In order to reach that goal, Food Banks Canada knew this campaign needed to be both big and bold in order to get the attention of benevolent businesses and individuals.

They got their wish.

The day the team decided to roll out the campaign, Food Banks Canada received their first donation in the amount of $750,000. It came from Canadian film star Ryan Reynolds and his wife Blake Lively. “It felt like the stars aligned on this one,” says Tania. “Suddenly we were launching a massive fundraising initiative and before we even got out of the gate, we had our very first donation—and it was a sizeable one.”

This early momentum set the stage for Food Banks Canada to form a further series of partnerships that have been fundamental in getting the word out.

Tania explains, “All of the pieces just kept falling into place. Four major Canadian networks collaborated with us, and each other, for the Stronger Together concert. Rogers took us under their wing and have been championing our work through a series of digital ads. Plus we’ve had over 15 public service campaigns that have been run independently by donors. All of these wonderful people and businesses have stepped up to say not only are we going to give you generous gifts, but we also want to spread the word about your cause.”

Receiving visibility on such a scale lent an added level of credibility to the work that Food Banks Canada does, which propelled even more generous partners to get involved.

“I think because of this campaign and how we’ve embraced our leadership role during the pandemic, Food Banks Canada is seen as even more of a credible organization by donors, governments, and other partners,” says Kirstin. “Organizations we haven’t necessarily worked as closely with in the past have now started reaching out to have weekly calls with our team. The federal government even bestowed on us a very sizeable $50 million donation. And it’s all because they’ve come to realize the scope of work that we do is so much bigger than what they originally understood it to be.”

Through these new partnerships, Food Banks Canada is able to build a legacy of sustainability and quality for food banks.

For example, in Ontario there is a deep history already between the provincial organizations and a number of the producer groups (I.e. eggs, dairy, chicken, beef, pork), which has helped to really elevate the quality of food that is being extended to food banks across the province. Now further partners have reached out with dedicated donations for fresh food, or food in general.

Moving into processing/producer/manufacturing relationships in the coming months will also ensure that food banks don’t have to be quite as anxiety-ridden with their supply chain going through the fall.

“That’s part of the legacy that’s going to come from all of this,” states Tania. “Some of those relationships have been grown locally and are now being fostered nationally. In other cases, we’ve opened the door to completely new partnerships that will affect the system longer term and hopefully reignite the economy."

With all of these new partnerships and incredible generosity and philanthropy flowing in to Food Banks Canada, ultimately this is a story of community.

How, on a massive scale, a community of businesses, donors, partners, food bankers, and everyday Canadians all came together for a common goal. To provide people in need with food, support, connection, and most importantly—hope.

You have the power to make a difference. Click here to get involved.

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of food distributed by Canadian food banks is fresh (eg. milk, eggs, fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, bread)