The goal of this initiative is to provide space and infrastructure to collect and distribute healthy food to local agencies that provide food and meals as part of their programs.

Background

In the KFL&A region and across the country, the COVID-19 pandemic has accentuated the importance of food access and security. Access to good food has become an essential part of response, recovery, and ongoing stabilization. The importance of centralizing and coordinating food reclamation, collection and distribution has been highlighted. Throughout the pandemic, agencies have leveraged donations of large amounts of surplus perishable and non-perishable food, as well as fresh food grown by the community, for donation to agencies supporting people experiencing food insecurity.
A centralized, conveniently located food distribution centre in the KFL&A region will streamline food distribution to agencies. The initiative will give the community access to larger donations of food, creating efficiencies and enhancing the much needed and valuable support agencies extend to clients.

What it is

The Community Food Redistribution Warehouse (CFRW) is a partnership between Lionhearts, Kingston Community Health Centres, United Way, Rotary of Kingston and the City of Kingston, to establish a warehouse to facilitate the efficient collection and distribution of large donations of food to agencies.

When space is available, agencies that provide meals or food as part of their programs can use the space and storage, working in collaboration with the coordinating agency. 

All efforts will be made to avoid duplication and competition for food donations and other donations by recognizing  existing relationships and mechanisms of food donations already in place for participating agencies.

At all times, donors’ interests and preferences will be acknowledged.  Input and feedback will be sought regularly from recipient agencies and their clients through an Advisory committee made up of agencies providing meals or food to people in the region.

Funding for this initiative is being provided by: City of Kingston, United Way of KFL&A, Anna & Edward C. Churchill Foundation, Rotary Clubs of Kingston. 

The Purpose

A centralized Community Food Redistribution Warehouse will provide the infrastructure for partners to gather and distribute more food to stakeholders who will then share it with clients experiencing food insecurity in KFL&A. It serves as a mechanism for local organizations to efficiently access food for their clients in a cost-effective manner. 

The primary purpose is intended for food; however, on occasion, space permitting, the space could be used to sort and distribute product to agencies like coats, hygiene products, etc.

Impact and benefits

The Community Food Redistribution Warehouse will:

  •  Create economies of scale as food providers benefit from efficiencies generated by the collection and distribution of healthy food;
  • Increase the amount of healthy food available to meal providers and local agencies;
  • Increase the ability to receive and safely, store larger donations of fresh and non-perishable food which will increase the amount of healthy food distributed to food providers. An increase in donated food will create cost-saving for food providers;
  • Provide a central place for food donations, including community harvest and farm produce donations, to be collected, cleaned and distributed to food providers. It will also centralize the collection and pickup from local businesses, avoiding the duplication of efforts for various agencies to canvass and collect local donations and
  • Avoid waste of food, from all sources, due to storage, collection or distribution challenges.

Model

The initiative is being developed by Lionhearts, Kingston Community Health Centres, United Way, Rotary in Kingston, City of Kingston, and a representative of participating agencies. The partners will work together to secure a location, funding and work through the logistics of food reclamation, collection, sorting, cleaning, storage. They will work with participating agencies to ensure efficiency and effectiveness.

Infrastructure

The vision for this space is a warehouse of 10,000 square feet, with a loading dock, forklift, a walk-in freezer, cold storage, a space to wash and prep vegetables, a space to pack food boxes. There will be space for volunteers and if possible, a multi-purpose community room, available for agencies to use. There will be 2 part-time staff (depending on budget) to coordinate deliveries, pick-ups, use of space and storage, clean up, etc.

FAQs

This is a food redistribution warehouse initiative, responding to the need for space to collect and store and redistribute food. 

The plan does not include office space for any agencies. There will be office space shared by warehouse staff and volunteers. The possibility of a “community room” which agencies could book for meetings or volunteer training will be explored.

Lionhearts and the Leadership Committee members are open to feedback on the distribution process. The warehouse will allow space to receive and distribute more food to agencies.

At this time, there will be no change for agencies receiving food from Lionhearts and other food distribution groups.

Existing arrangements between Lionhearts and Kingston Community Health Centres regarding access to community food donations will not change and further agreements will be established as necessary to avoid competition. The Community Food Redistribution Warehouse will be a place for Lionhearts and KCHC to continue to do their work of distributing food to agencies and food boxes to people in the region. Other food providing agencies will be able to use the space, as available. The Food Bank provides a service to the community. It distributes food in hampers to individuals and when they have extra donated food, they distribute to agencies. The Food Bank has exclusive access to donations through Feed Ontario and Food Banks Canada which can be shared with agencies once their needs are met.

The United Way will continue to distribute its annual campaign dollars to agencies through allocations and granting processes. This is specific funding from other sources of revenue.
The City will also continue to disburse grants through the Community Investment Fund granting process, which will not be impacted by this funding.

The focus is on the impact of this initiative, not economic return on investment. However, there will be significant benefits to the community. The Community Food Redistribution Warehouse will:

  • Create economies of scale as food providers benefit from efficiencies generated by the collaborative collection and distribution of healthy food;
  • Increase the amount of healthy food available to meal providers and local agencies;
  • Increase the ability to receive and safely, store larger donations of fresh and non-perishable food which will increase the amount of healthy food distributed to food providers. An increase in donated food will create cost-saving for food providers;
  • Provide a central place for food donations, including community harvest and farm produce donations, to be collected, cleaned and distributed to food providers. It will also centralize the collection and pickup from local businesses, avoiding the duplication of efforts for various agencies to canvass and collect local donations and
  • Avoid waste of food, from all sources, due to storage, collection or distribution challenges.

In addition:
In 2020, Loving Spoonful distributed 18,000 lbs of locally grown, fresh produce and expects a significant increase with the availability of warehouse space. KCHC distributed 260,000 lbs of food in 9600 Good Food/Seniors food boxes during 2020-21, an increase from 3000 food boxes in 2019. KCHC expects to continue to manage the increased numbers with the appropriate warehouse space for receiving and packing. Lionhearts collected and distributed food with a value of $3.2M in 2020 from its existing partners, an increase of $1.1M from 2019. This number does not include the value of the additional products, including food and items such as PPE, were distributed in the community through the network.

As space allows, every effort will be made to accommodate agency requests to use the warehouse space to receive, clean or store large food donations. Agencies will determine if the donation is for their exclusive use or can be shared, however, the expectation is that most storage needs would be for a short time. At this time, no cost or terms have been fleshed out as the budget and revenue sources are still being worked through. The focus is to get infrastructure in place and receive input from the Advisory Committee on future costs, as necessary.

The Warehouse Leadership Committee encourages agencies to continue to receive donations from their long-standing and other donors. Existing donor relationships will not change.

A coordinating agency is necessary to ensure that the legal, financial and health and safety requirements related to the operation of the warehouse are met. Lionhearts has stepped up to be the coordinating agency and its Board of Directors will assume the related risks. Lionhearts will hire staff (dependent on budget) and coordinate access to the facility. They will be accountable to funders and to the Leadership Committee. The current budget allows for two part-time staff positions: .5 Coordinator and .5 Warehouse operations. A Leadership Committee consisting of representatives from  Lionhearts, KCHC, United Way, Rotary in Kingston and one meal-provider agency will provide oversight regarding the operation of the warehouse. The Committee members will work together to secure a location, funding, and work through the logistics of the collection, sorting, cleaning, and redistribution of food donations.  A separate Advisory Committee will include partners, all participating agencies, funders and representatives from the interfaith community, business and the broader community, as well as guests of meal programs. It will meet several times a year and provide feedback and advice.

While there are currently several successful models for additional uses of warehouse space in supporting local food security, sustainability will be a task for Phase 2 of this initiative. Plans will be made with input from all interested parties.

As organizations dedicated to distributing food donations, at no cost, it is beneficial to food providers in the community that Lionhearts and KCHC have access to the infrastructure to do that, efficiently and safely. Every effort will be made to avoid duplication, competition and confusion through open channels of communication with all interested agencies.

The Community Food Redistribution Centre is infrastructure to facilitate the efficient collection of large donations of food for distribution to agencies. It will not replace the work of individual agencies to source food for their programs, either through existing donor relationships or purchase. The intent is that the warehouse will help agencies by providing an efficient way to access more food donations which will result in cost and time savings for them. There has never been any intention to cause damage to agencies, rather to support the excellent work that is being done.

An Advisory Committee is being set up and there will be regular meetings to discuss options and communications.

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