Food distributor eyes Wal-Mart for donations

Thunder Bay's food bank warehouse is looking to Wal-Mart to fill the void left by the closure of two Zellers stores.

Closure of local Zellers stores leaves void for Thunder Bay's Regional Food Distribution Association to fill

Wal-Mart is taking over the old Zellers location on Thunder Bay's Arthur Street. It is hoped the department store will also fill the void in donations to local food banks when Zellers closed its doors. (Nicole Ireland/CBC)

Thunder Bay's food bank distribution agency is looking to Wal-Mart to fill the void left by the closure of two Zellers stores.

The Regional Food Distribution Association could be in luck, as incoming Wal-Mart is in the midst wrapping up a pilot project with food banks in about 30 communities across the country.

Thunder Bay's Regional Food Distribution Association (Nicole Ireland/CBC)

Katharine Schmidt of Food Banks Canada said her organization is working with Wal-Mart to figure out what goods the stores can donate — and she sees a big opportunity for Thunder Bay food banks.    

"The goal here is to be able to glean as much food as possible that otherwise wouldn't be sold, but is still safe, quality food," she said.

"With a couple of new Wal-Mart stores coming, we're very hopeful [the] Thunder Bay community [will] be able to benefit from the program."

A Wal-Mart spokesperson said — until the pilot project is evaluated — she can't confirm what the new stores in Thunder Bay will do.

But she said the existing store on Memorial Avenue already donates food to the Salvation Army.

The head of the RFDA, Volker Kromm, said the former Zellers stores that Wal-Mart is replacing used to donate food and toiletries regularly.

"They will be greatly missed," he said. "I encourage places like Wal-Mart to do the same because we'll need that. They're a large, vibrant food centre."

The Wal-Mart spokesperson said if the national pilot project with Food Banks Canada is deemed successful the new stores may become donors.