Dozens of Southwest businesses and schools lent their generosity in support of four regional Food Banks during three days of the FCC Drive Away Hunger tour across the region.
FCC's Drive Away Hunger initiative rolled through Swift Current on Oct. 17, with 14 collection locations contributing an impressive outpouring of food items and donations. When combined with donation totals collected during events in Kindersley and Rosetown, there was a total of 70,402 pounds of food gathered.
Two tractors simultaneously covered the city during collection day, but the tour also rolled through a dozen regional centres earlier in the week. Community donations were gathered in support of the Maple Creek Salvation Army Food Bank plus the Leader and District Food Bank. Hodgeville and Gravelbourg collections on Oct. 16 supported the Gravelbourg Food Bank. Beechy and Lucky Lake donations on Oct. 16 helped support the Lucky Lake United Church Food Bank. Oct. 15 stops in Shaunavon, Gull Lake, Cabri, Success and Mankota brought in food for the Swift Current Salvation Army Food Bank.
Swift Current and surrounding areas collected 47,693 pounds of food, compared to 13,049 collected in Kindersley and area, with the Rosetown region contributing 9,660 pounds of food.
Captain Michael Ramsay from the Salvation Army said the timing of the major food bank initiative is ideal, as their shelves had begun to empty over the past months.
"Today’s donation will go a long way for helping those in need at this time of year. As we head into the season where it’s starting to get colder, we find that the need in the community grows quite a bit.
To have this blessing come in today, it will be amazing the number of families in need that we’ll be able to help out," Ramsay said shortly after Thursday's unloading by FCC employees.
"The shelves, before the FCC food drive started, were starting to get a little bit bare. We’re getting closer to empty through the summer months and all that. This is such a blessing because of course, after October comes November and December, and the big push at Christmas time. So this gives us a good start at dealing with the families in need right now and also preparing for Christmas time, which really is the biggest need in the community and around the whole country."
With the food drive coming shortly after both Thanksgiving and the conclusion of harvest operations, the chance to give to people less fortunate was ideal timing.
"It really is such a blessing to see so many people helping out for those who need it this time of year," he said.
Capt. Ramsay also expressed his appreciation for the Farm Credit Canada's unique food drive effort.
"I can’t say enough to thank FCC for all that they do, and bringing in as much community support and as much food for the food bank that they do. It really is such a blessing everything that FCC has been doing through the businesses, through the schools, through the Bronco’s game, through all the different avenues that they’ve been involved in to raise food and support to the food bank. I just cant’ say enough as to what a blessing it is."
FCC District Director Michelle Sandercock highlighted that this is the 10th anniversary of the Drive Away Hunger initiative, and the event serves as an ideal way to highlight that the best quality food available is produced right here on the prairies.
"What I think is really exciting is that our customers and the producers that we get to work with have the ability to bring their product which is some of the highest quality food in the world and really make a difference to people that need it most. The more that we can remind them that they have the ability to make that impact, they sure show up in spades and make a difference," she said.
Sandercock commented that the Drive Away Hunger is rewarding for both the FCC staff who collect the donated food, and also to those making the donations to a worthwhile cause. It is especially exciting to see the response from school children.
"We’re passionate about building philanthropy in our youth and there’s something special about seeing children feel that they can make a real difference. From picking up the food, to weighing it, to bringing it to school, to lugging it around in those bags and putting it on the tractor. It’s pretty special. We do that every year. We do travel to all the schools, and try to get them involved as much as we can in any non-tour year. It’s something that is probably the most fun part of the job, is to see how excited they are."
This year marked the 10th anniversary of the Drive Away Hunger initiative, with the program having collected 11 million pounds of food since beginning in 2003 while blossoming into the largest employee-led food drive in Canada.
This continued effort of generosity is needed across the province and country in growing numbers. Over 24,600 people are assisted by a Saskatchewan food bank each month, which children accounting for 48 per cent of those touched by the food bank.
With an important need, Sandercock noted that people, and especially school students, very quickly step forward to make a difference.
"It coincides with World Food Day (Oct. 16). And the timing coming right after Thanksgiving is the perfect time for kids to be hopefully feeling thankful, and for everyone to be feeling thankful for what they have and to share. If it weren’t for teachers, creating a sense of connection, and helping kids understand what they’re really impacting, and understanding the need and establishing a sense of excitement, this wouldn’t be a successful food drive. The teachers do a lot of the work, as do those individuals that organize the food drives for businesses and partners around Swift Current and area."