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“Drive away hunger” campaign soars over goals

“Some children are having one meal a day if that.”

– Tilly Morgan

Farm Credit Canada’s “Drive away hunger” event exceeded lofty goals in Manitoba.

The east tour concluded in Steinbach on Oct. 16, 2008 with the announcement that 120,000 pounds of food had been collected, exceeding the provincial goal of 100,000. The western tour brought in another 79,000 pounds, and with a third roundup of food items, the grand total was 203,000 pounds of food collected for distribution to rural communities. And the donations are continuing.

“Right now with both tours and field offices, outside of the tour route, we are at 211,500 pounds,” said FCC communications consultant Melanie Lightfoot the day following the event.

Tilly Morgan, team lead at FCC in Steinbach said branches across the country were collecting food, but there were six tractor-driven tours, two in Manitoba, two in Alberta, one in Regina and one in the Maritimes.

The eastern tour began in Carman and visited Morden, Winkler, Plum Coulee, Altona, St. Joseph, Letellier, St. Jean-Baptiste, Morris, Ste. Agathe, Niverville, Blumenort and Steinbach.

Local residents at each stop filled grocery bags for needy families. School groups, and companies also jumped on board.

“Most people, when they think of hunger, they think of the city. It also happens in the country as well. Most people don’t think of that,” said Morgan.

According to statistics from Winnipeg Harvest, 47 per cent of the people going hungry in Canada are children. “Some children are having one meal a day if that,” she said.

In small communities, it’s not uncommon for people to be surprised that the problem exists.

“People have asked why, but we’re not the experts on that,” she said.

Bags printed for the drive have identified the top 10 food items most helpful to people in need.

Canned fish or poultry, baby food and formula, canned vegetables or fruit, canned stew, chili or brown beans, peanut butter, dry pasta, rice, canned spaghetti sauce, cereal and canned soup can take a hungry family far.

Morgan said food banks operate almost entirely through volunteers.

About five years ago, a staff member at FCC was inspired to raise money for a local food bank in the area near Listowel, Ontario. Using a tractor and trailer, Dale Snider gathered food for the hungry of the community.

The very next year, Farm Credit Canada staff members in many places were inspired to take up the cause and the “Drive away hunger” campaign was born. Although Snider is no longer with the company, FCC continued the tradition turning it into a national event.

Gordon Earl, business development manager with FCC in Morden said the children of the communities really inspired him.

“Whenever we came to schools and saw the smiling faces and the joy they got by carrying bags of food and making a difference…it’s nice to see young people getting involved,” said Earl.

A youth group in Winkler collected food items and showed up at one of the drive member’s houses to turn over their booty. The food filled his garage and basement.

“In any kind of times a certain segment of the population is going through hard times,” said Earl.

Bruce Michalski of Winnipeg Harvest said his agency doesn’t just serve Winnipeg. The director of development said increasing requests for food from rural food banks indicated rural hunger is widespread.

In rural communities, people are often too embarrassed to ask for help which adds a challenge.

He feels events like “Drive away hunger” should serve as an awareness for both clients and the community. “This campaign got people talking,” he said.

Lunch for the windup event was provided by Manitoba Pork with donations from other sponsors. The list of supporting companies was extensive.

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