Nfld. & Labrador

Here's how a community effort saved Dominion's fresh food from spoiling

It took a lot of coordination and different partners to get food that would have been wasted due to the ongoing strike into the hands and kitchens of those who needed it.

Jimmy Pratt Foundation fought the clock to prevent produce from rotting

The Jimmy Pratt Foundation received an entire tractor trailer load of fresh food on Friday, but didn't have any refrigerated space in which to store it. (Peter Cowan/CBC)

It took a big community push to ensure fresh food from the Dominion store in Conception Bay South, set to spoil due to the ongoing strike, made its way into the hands and kitchens of those who could badly use such items, but rarely afford them.

The call came in Friday to the Jimmy Pratt Foundation, a non-profit organization that works with low-income families in and around St. John's, that they could avail of a tractor trailer full of fresh food from the Long Pond Dominion.

Unifor workers at Dominions across the province have been on strike since Aug. 22, and parent company Loblaw has been in touch with food banks and organizations to donate as much perishable goods as possible.

When the foundation got the call, the scramble began.

"We had a challenge on Friday afternoon trying to find a place to store refrigerated food," said Robyn LeGrow, the foundation's executive director.

LeGrow said she called other food organizations, and then moved on to any entity she could think of that might have refrigerator space for an entire tractor trailer, from Mile One to Memorial University to catering companies.

"Either I couldn't get an answer, or I couldn't get access. and so we ended up at the very last minute with a fish supplier and a reefer truck, who let us use it for the weekend," she said.

Robyn LeGrow is the executive director of the Jimmy Pratt Foundation. (Peter Cowan/CBC)

With a little time bought, LeGrow then found warehouse space at Domestic Moving & Storage in St. John's to turn into an impromptu distribution service, and the food began shipping out Monday morning, headed to community centres, food banks and programs around the area.

"I'm pretty sure [Monday] night there was people having a fresh meal with cauliflower and broccoli and fresh potatoes and all sorts of fresh produce that they wouldn't normally have access to," she said, "and hopefully be able to enjoy some of these things that many of us cannot afford to even purchase in a grocery store... we've got pineapples, watermelon, avocados. You name it, we've got it."

Food banks need more fridges

Within 36 hours, those fruits and vegetables were gone from the foundation's temporary fresh food bank.

The foundation only got involved with food distribution since the pandemic began, and the Dominion donation highlighted new areas of concern for LeGrow.

"On Friday, when we were trying to source a place, it became very clear to me that none of the food banks have a capability of being able to take this kind of fresh produce," she said.

"It's a concern to me that if we do find ourselves in another Snowmaggedon position, that we don't really have the proper storage, refrigeration and even distribution network to get good quality nutritional food out to the people who need it."

LeGrow said she's going to take the experience, and those concerns, and try to figure out solutions for the future.

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Peter Cowan

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