Thunder Bay, Ont., business brings fresh produce to northern First Nations

Employees at True Grit Engineering in Thunder Bay, Ont., give up some of their paycheck to send fresh produce to northern Ontario First Nations.

About 50 employees donate a portion of their paycheck every two weeks to pay for the food

Employees at True Grit Engineering donate a portion of their paycheck every two weeks to help fund the program. (Jackie McKay / CBC)

Employees at True Grit Engineering have started an initiative to send fresh fruit and vegetables to northern First Nation communities.

"We do a lot of work up in the north and our people see first hand the conditions up there and the price of routine groceries and fruit," said Paula Sdao, an employee at True Grit Engineering. "This was a great way for us to give back to the communities."

As part of a company program, employees can donate money to a cause of their choice. About 50 employees donate a portion of their paycheck every two weeks to pay for the food they send up north. The company has matched the $5,000 raised by employees.

"I'm really proud of our staff that they identified an opportunity to make a small difference in some of these communities that we are spending time and working in," said Eric Zakrewski, True Grit's CEO.

The company has sent over 100 crates of food to eight First Nation communities. Some of these include Fort Hope, Bearskin Lake, Neskantaga and Wapekeka.

"Our goal is to try and get to as many remote First Nations communities as we possibly can with the program," said Zakrewski.
Eric Zakrewski is the CEO of True Grit Engineering. (Jackie McKay / CBC)

Company officials said they charter a plane to send employees to work in a community and will fill the unoccupied space with as much produce as possible. The food then is distributed to children at the community's local school.  

According to a Food Secure Canada report, it can cost as much as $7.99 for three pounds of apples in Attawapiskat, Ont., In Fort Albany, Ont., a household will spend over 50 per cent of their median income on groceries.

"When it's so expensive, or not even an option, to have fresh fruit, at whatever the local grocery store is, we really wanted to prioritize getting that to the kids who really appreciate it and need it," said Zakrewski.

He added that as long as the staff want to keep supporting the program the company will back it.