Thunder Bay

'Gleaners' send food shipment to northwestern Ontario

A Leamington-based volunteer group is getting ready to send a big shipment of food to northwestern Ontario.

Leamington-based organization converts 'unmarketable' food into soup mix and dry snacks

The Southwestern Ontario Gleaners, shown here with student volunteers, convert unmarketable food into dry soup mix and other snacks. (swogleaners.org/)

A Leamington-based volunteer group is sending a big shipment of food to northwestern Ontario.

The Southwestern Ontario Gleaners is an organization that prepares donated food to be sent around the world. A donation to Sandy Lake First Nation will be one of its first shipments to Ontario's far north. 

"This is a trial run for us," said Vern Toews, chair of the organization, "we're very excited about it, and we hope that the people up north will like what we're doing."

The Gleaners collect unmarketable produce —  food with too many cosmetic flaws to be sold in grocery stores —  and in their volunteer-run factory, turn it into dehydrated soup mix and apple snacks.

The imperfect food that they collect from farms, would otherwise go to waste.

"The business plan is fool-proof," Toews said, " how can you argue with taking waste, and feeding hungry people?"

In 2016 they will have processed 3 million servings of vegetable soup mix, Toews said.

"That means that this little organization, we are serving 7,000 people somewhere around the world once a day, every day for a full year," he said, "so we're happy with that."

Toews said they have sent vegetable soup mix, two big pallets of fresh carrots, a pallet of tomatoes, a pallet of peppers and a pallet of cucumbers to the Regional Food Distribution Association in Thunder Bay.

On Friday, the food will be loaded into a plane and flown to Sandy Lake as part of CBC Thunder Bay's Sounds of the Season fundraiser.

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