For the Regional Food Distribution Association in Thunder Bay, time is of the essence. In addition to meeting the food needs of the communities they serve, the RFDA is continually racing against the clock to ensure they’re able to process the abundance of fresh food donations that come in, before they expire.
This means the RFDA has a very limited window in which to process these types of donations.
Tanner Harris, Food Service Manager of the RFDA explains, “In some cases, it can take up 2 or 3 days for fresh food donations to even reach us. When they finally do arrive, we have to first clean, cut, and portion the food before it can be stored away. When all is said and done, we’re looking at about 24 hours from when we receive fresh food donations, to the time it’s all safely stored.”
With a background as a trained chef, Tanner knew of a way of reducing fresh food waste, but it was going to take some serious money.
“Back in my days as a chef, we used blast chillers. Since they bring food to a low temperature a whole lot quicker than a freezer, it seemed like the perfect solution for use. Yet for the RFDA to purchase the kind of blast chiller we needed, it would come at a cost of over $25,000—money we just didn’t have.”
That’s when the RFDA decided to apply for a Capacity Boost grant through Food Banks Canada.
“When our application was approved and the money came through, we were beyond excited,” exclaims Tanner. “Since purchasing the blast chiller, we’ve been able to reduce our processing time from several hours to just 30 minutes. Plus the increased capacity means we’re now able to provide fresh foods to even more people in the community, which is a wonderful thing.”
With those fresh foods, Tanner hopes to inspire people to adopt healthier eating habits.
“Before the pandemic hit, I had started teaching a cooking class at the RFDA,” recalls Tanner. “In this one class, I was explaining the health benefits of an avocado, when a man spoke up to say he had never heard of an avocado. By the end of the class, not only did this person know what an avocado was—he left having tried one and loving it. It’s moments like these that fuel my passion for helping others.”
Our thanks to Tanner Harris of the Regional Food Distribution Association for sharing his story, as well as The Walmart Foundation for providing the funds that made this donation possible.