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How do you get over 40,000 pounds of food to remote First Nations communities?

How do you send over 40,000 pounds of food to six remote First Nation communities? It’s no easy task according to Volker Kromm, executive director of the Regional Food Distribution Association (RFDA).

'Quite frankly I don't think any organization ... has ever done this,' says Volker Kromm

More than 18,000 kg of food will be transported from Thunder Bay, Ont. to six remote First Nation communities on Friday. (Jackie McKay/ CBC)

How do you send over 18,000 kg (or 40,000 pounds) of food to six remote First Nation communities?

It's no easy task according to Volker Kromm, the executive director of the Regional Food Distribution Association (RFDA) in Thunder Bay, Ont.  

"It is a distribution and logistics nightmare," said Kromm, standing among crates of carrots, potatoes and dried soup packages.

The food is for CBC Thunder Bay's annual Sounds of the Season food drive. This year's goal is to pack multiple planes with food to send to six First Nations communities on Dec. 15.

All of the food needs to be sorted into about 30 pallets. Once they're packed with a variety food items, the pallets will need to be transported to the airport and loaded onto planes. Between six and eight pallets will go to each community. 

"Quite frankly I don't think any organization or any Sounds of the Season across the country has ever done this," said Kromm.

The process is entirely volunteer-run, from the people sorting the food, to the transportation, to the people distributing it in the communities.

Big boxes of carrots, sweet potatoes and onions will be sorted to go to the north. The food was donated by the Southwestern Ontario Gleaners, who gather it from farmers who can't sell the produce because the vegetables aren't the right size or shape for commercial sale.

All this food would be thrown in a composter if it wasn't going to RFDA, said Kromm.

The shipment from the Southwestern Ontario Gleaners also included pallets of Heinz tomato juice that were donated because the labels weren't put on correctly as well as barrels of dehydrated apple snacks prepared by the gleaners.

Donations to Sounds of the Season made by individuals in Thunder Bay will also be sorted and added to the planes before Friday. 

Kromm said he considers this a pilot project for distributing healthy food to remote communities, and that lessons learned this year will help with future efforts. 

"I know for a fact that there is food going to waste right across Canada and there is no need for us to struggle," said Kromm. "Everyone in Canada should have access to healthy food, it's a right we all have."

He said he would like to see funding for this type of food distribution to the far north, and support from government for warehousing and staffing in each community.

On the 15th, the planes full of food will travel from Thunder Bay to Neskantaga, Sandy Lake, Sachigo Lake, Weagamow (North Caribou Lake), Marten Falls and Kasabonika.

Wasaya, North Star Air, Perimeter Aviation and KBM Forestry Consultants have volunteered planes for the effort.

DONATE

Online to the Regional Food Distribution Association (RFDA)

By phone, call 1-855-CBC-SOTS (1-855-768-7222)

In person food and monetary donations collected at:

  • RFDA - 570 South Syndicate Ave, Thunder Bay, ON.
  • CBC Thunder Bay live broadcast on Friday December 15 from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Thunder Bay International Airport