The agricultural community responds by giving back in a time of crisis
By Jackie Clark
The COVID-19 pandemic has stressed food security for some Canadians through lost income or lack of access to school nutrition programs. Both the government and local farmers, however, have been stepping up in this time of need.
Traditional food banks have been forced to alter their operations to provide food for people who need it without compromising the health and safety of staff, volunteers, or recipients. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dedicated $100 million on April 3 in support of organizations that help Canadians get essential food support. Organizations receiving funds include Food Banks Canada, Second Harvest Food Rescue, the Breakfast Club of Canada, Community Food Centres Canada, and the Salvation Army.
Given the scale of the challenges Canadians face, we’ll need contributions from organizations and individuals as well. Some farmers are pitching in at the local level to give back to their communities in this time of crisis.
The Egg Farmers of Ontario “have always donated eggs to the student nutrition program,” Dan Veldman, an egg and cash crop farmer from Embro, told Farms.com.
With the schools closed, Veldman had half a skid of eggs ready to donate, but no end recipient. He posted on Twitter, and local shelters and food banks quickly got in touch.
“Within a day or two” the eggs were claimed, he said.
Then, Bill Gray from Gray Ridge Egg Farms, the grading station Veldman sends his eggs to, saw what Veldman was doing online, and committed to donating ten skids.
“Ten different farmers in different areas that are his customers, he dropped a skid in their coolers,” Veldman explained. The farmers then coordinated donating them to local groups in need.
Veldman donates to food banks, shelters, retirement and nursing homes, and organizations like the Ronald McDonald House.
“We’re looking at continuing (to donate eggs) during the crisis as much as we can,” he said. The egg farming community wants to “focus our resources on families that are really going to be in need … There are always limited resources, but we try as hard as we can to work with these organizations that do so much good for society.”
Eggs aren’t the only way Veldman is giving back. When he heard some front-line workers were facing a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), his family decided to take stock of what they had on their farm.
“We usually get a lot of tours that come through with schools and politicians, and we’re not going to do that this year,” he explained. The Veldman family set aside what they’d need for their own use until the end of the year, and decided to donate the rest.
PPE went to heath care workers like nurses in London, and doctors’ offices in the Stratford and Woodstock area.
“Before I knew it, (the supply) was gone. That really went well,” Veldman said.
Farmers can find their own opportunities to help support their communities through this difficult time.
“There’s no right or wrong way … for us it was eggs and personal protective equipment,” Veldman said. “I think we’re very fortunate that we’re able to keep our farms operating through this. There are a lot of farmers that are going to be hurting through this as well. We might have to reach out to neighbours that are in need.”
The agricultural community tends to be a group that feels a great social responsibility to pull together, and give back when they can, he added.
“That’s something that I think during this crisis we might see a lot more of. We feel privileged that we’re able to do it.”
Evgenii Leontev\iStock\Getty Images Plus photo