A group of First Nations in northwestern Ontario is getting fresh fruits and vegetable this month, thanks to a pilot project between Food Banks Canada and the Regional Food Distribution Association.

Volker Kromm is the association's executive director.

He said statistics show one in five Aboriginal people, living on reserve don't get enough to eat, and nearly half of those people are children.

Kromm said, through the partnership with Food Banks Canada, he was able to purchase $20,000 worth of fresh groceries to take to some First Nations communities that are accessible by road.

He said he was transporting everything from potatoes to granola bars to cantaloupe.

'The excitement of the kids'

Kromm said delivering a shipment of food to Mishkeegogamang, north of Thunder Bay, was an eye-opening experience.

"The excitement of the kids at having the apples and the oranges. Something that's really, really hard to come by. I also learned that there are certain fruits and vegetables that aren't known to them and so maybe what my appetite, my palate likes, maybe some of these things aren't that appropriate."

Kromm said he was surprised by the reaction he received to the fresh tomatoes he'd packed. 

Food at Regional Food Distribution Association

Food waiting to be loaded onto trucks at the Regional Food Distribution Association in Thunder Bay. It is headed to northern Ontario First Nations. (Cathy Alex )

"I had these fresh cases of tomatoes, and they looked at me and said 'Not so much.' Cheese was great. Juices. yogurt, those kinds of things that everybody identifies with, those are great. And they're also great snacks," said Kromm

Kromm said one problem they're encountering is storage capacity, since many of the shipments are going to schools for breakfast and lunch programs.

"There are only cupboards, and maybe one chest freezer or one refrigerator. How do you store enough food to last for a month or so? So, if we're moving forward, trying to repeat this exercise, we might have to build some capacity in all these communities."

'Difficult to feed everybody'

Kromm said although some of the food is going to community programs, the real emphasis of the pilot project is feeding the children at school.

"It's difficult to feed everybody, and I think we're focusing on children because that's our future, our next generation. Those are our leaders, and I think giving them the best opportunity at the school level is where we can make the greatest impact."

Other First Nations receiving food through the program are Kiashke Zaaging (Gull Bay), Red Rock Indian Band at Lake Helen, Aroland, Long Lake 58 and Ginoogaming.