Thunder Bay

New freezer 'game changer' for Regional Food Distribution Association in northern Ontario

A new freezer and cooling unit is a "turning point" for the Regional Food Distribution Association (RFDA) in Thunder Bay, Ont., as it strives to deliver nutritious food across northwestern Ontario.

RFDA says new unit allows them to store equivalent of 2 transport trucks full of food

RFDA food services manager, Kelsey Agnew, stands on one of the racks inside the association's new freezer. (Amy Hadley / CBC)

A new freezer and cooling unit is a "turning point" for the Regional Food Distribution Association (RFDA) in Thunder Bay, as it strives to deliver nutritious food across northwestern Ontario.

"This is a game changer in the way we do business," said RFDA Executive Director Volker Kromm.

The new freezer can hold the equivalent of two transport trucks full of food, representing a five-fold increase over their current storage capacity.

No more 'big panic' to deal with fresh food, meat

It means the RFDA will now be better able to receive, process, and distribute fresh produce and meat products, said Kromm, giving the example of a shipment of carrots from southern Ontario.

"With our commercial kitchen, now when we get a truckload of carrots, we're not in such a big panic to be able to move them out right away, so now we can take them, blanche them, flash freeze them and put them in the freezer and hold them for a longer period of time, so our whole intent of having healthier food, we can maximize on that. It gives us a lot more leverage to store more food."

Another benefit of the new freezer is that it will help the RFDA act as a storage centre for smaller food banks and communities across northwestern Ontario.

Will help RFDA serve small centres, First Nations

"There's a lot of members in our network who don't have capacity, so this allows us to hold it for them until they're prepared to use it," said Kromm, noting "we're trying to come up with a plan where we can service not only the urban areas right around where we are, but also the far-reaching communities, as well as remote First Nations."

Volker Kromm, the executive director of the Regional Food Distribution Association in Thunder Bay, said the association's new freezer and cooling unit is "a game changer in the way" they do business. (Cathy Alex/CBC )

The majority of the cost of the new equipment was covered through the fundraising efforts of the Performance Kia dealership in Thunder Bay, and a $150,000 grant from the Enterprise Holding Foundation. As well, money raised through CBC Thunder Bay's Sounds of the Season campaign also helped pay for the new unit.

The freezer was officially turned on during a special celebration Thursday night.

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