Helping Rural Food Banks to Literally Go the Distance

Donor Impact Spotlight: Rural Transportation Grant 
Grant Funded By: Syngenta and Farm Credit Canada


Rural Canada may be considered small in some respects, yet it accounts for 95% of the country’s landmass. That’s a lot space to occupy for just 18.7% of the nation’s population.

Being surrounded by the tranquility of rolling landscapes, clean air, and the majority of the nation’s natural resources can be clear-cut advantages to living away from the urban sprawl. However, those same benefits also bring forth a unique set of challenges—particularly for residents of rural communities.

For starters, remote and rural areas tend to have a lack of infrastructural development, which (in addition to transportation challenges) can create barriers to economic growth.

Canadians living in these regions are recorded to having the lowest average annual income in the nation, earning 30% less than their urban counterparts. These areas are also faced with the highest unemployment rates in the country, which has led to an escalation in poverty and a growing number of people becoming food insecure. 

As it happens, 29% of Canadian food banks are located within rural and remote communities.

Due to the diverse geographies and sheer vastness of rural areas, it becomes quite expensive for food banks to pick up and deliver food supplies to people in need. To help offset these transportation costs, Food Banks Canada established the Rural Transportation Grant. To date, thanks to the generous support of Sygenta and Farm Credit Canada, more than $777,000 has been distributed to rural food banks across the country.

For the Barriere and District Food Bank Society in British Columbia, the Rural Transportation Grant has ensured their capacity to deliver monthly food hampers to those in need.

“The Rural Transportation Grant is a crucial part of our budgeting and planning,” explains Antoon Hooben, Acting Warehouse Manager and Community Relations Officer with the Barriere and District Food Bank Society. “We service a large rural area defined by long valleys and the North Thompson River—an area where approximately 15% of our clients depend on us for the delivery of their monthly food hampers. With a lot of ground to cover, you can imagine this builds up significant mileage on our vehicles, very quickly. Considering our food bank is entirely volunteer-based, we fully rely on raising (and the donation of) funds. So receiving the grant is a real gift, as it covers most of the cost of gas for all of the driving that we do. This makes a huge difference, as it enables us to continue providing such a critical service within our community.”

Over 4,000 kilometres to the east of Barriere is Warkworth, a small village in Central Ontario consisting of 600 inhabitants—and the site of 7 Hills Community Pantry.

Being located in quite the rural area, 7 Hills regularly relies on the collection of food supplies from a regional distribution centre 43 kilometres away. “Every two weeks our volunteers hop in their cars and head to the Food4All warehouse in Cobourg,” states Carolyn Lee, Chair for 7 Hills Community Pantry. “Round trip it’s roughly 86 kilometres. Over time, the cost of gas can really add up.”

Receiving the Rural Transportation Grant has provided 7 Hills with the means to reimburse their volunteers for their gas expenses.

“Without our amazing volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to continually stock our shelves with essentials such as milk, eggs, beans, pasta, cereal, or canned fruits and vegetables,” says Carolyn. “These are all items that allow us to promote Canada’s new food guide and contribute to the healthy eating habits of our clients. It’s no exaggeration to say that this grant has been very important to our food bank, so a big thank you to Syngenta, Farm Credit Canada, and of course Food Banks Canada for all of the support.”

As more Canadians in rural and agricultural settings turn to food banks in times of need, these organizations will continue to require support to deliver their critical programs.

Syngenta and Farm Credit Canada’s important funding of the Rural Transportation Grant continues to allow Food Banks Canada to support a clear and growing need within our food-banking network. Because, while this grant is helping rural food banks (such as the ones in Barriere and Warkworth) to cover miles of expenses, there is still miles to go before every Canadian can eat without the help of a food bank.

Our thanks to Antoon Hooben of the Barriere and District Food Bank Society and Carolyn Lee of the 7 Hills Community Pantry for sharing their stories!

You, too, have the power to make an impact. Click here to get involved.

About the Rural Transportation Grant:
The funding provided by this grant helps food banks in rural and remote areas to offset essential expenses required for collecting and delivering food donations across large distances. Funds go towards transportation-related expenses such as purchasing gas, renting trucks, hiring third-party transportation, and maintaining or repairing vehicles owned by the food banks.