Lending a hand at After the Bell packing event

By Matt Stevenson, Product Manager, French’s Condiments

In May of this year, I participated with the French’s team in a packing event organized by Food Banks Canada for their After the Bell program. This event brings together teams of corporate volunteers to assemble the food packs that will be given to children experiencing food insecurity over the summer months, when school food programs aren’t available. 

At the time, I’d only been at McCormick Canada (parent company of French’s) for two months. I knew community involvement and supporting causes like this were important to our brand — French’s donates more than two million meals a year and is a dedicated Inspiration Partner to Food Banks Canada. But I had no idea what to expect at this event, which involved more than 300 volunteers, or how we would be working together as a team.

We assembled early morning at the designated site: The International Centre in Mississauga, Ontario.

Our goal was to fill as many packs as possible with non-perishables — fresh foods are purchased later, by the communities with a grant from After the Bell, and added to the packs when they are handed out to the kids.

The French’s station was set up like most of the other team stations. We had a few folding tables set end-to-end, and we operated like a human conveyer belt. The person at the front of the table would load a bag with two items and pass it to the next person, who added their item, and so on, until the bag reached the last person, who tied it off and loaded it onto the pallet.

We had runners who would hurry over to the different food stations in another part of the building whenever we were getting low on an item.

The camaraderie and teamwork were amazing! There was so much energy from all the volunteers present that day. Everyone was completely focused on finding ways to help, and it was great to see everyone band together. We worked well as a unit and it was a great team-building exercise, especially for someone new.

In total, 20,000 packs were assembled by the volunteers on the event day, and nearly 70,000 food packs were delivered this past summer to kids in eight provinces and one territory through After the Bell. Knowing that my company contributes to such a fantastic cause made me proud — and knowing that I was playing a role in delivering that support was extremely rewarding.

The event was a real eye-opener for me. When you hear how many people are in need and access a food bank each month, and that 300,000 are children — you realize what a huge portion of Canadian children need our support.

Participating in the event also gave me a hands-on understanding of the scale of what Food Banks Canada does, and what a huge effort it requires. There’s so much to do, and Food Banks Canada does such a good job at organizing. It takes an awful lot of time and energy to do what they do, but as they say, many hands make light work. That’s why events like the corporate packing days are so important, and it’s why the French’s team is looking forward to helping out again next year.

Our goal at Food Banks Canada is to distribute 100,000 food packs to kids in 2019. We need 1,000 corporate volunteers to make it happen. To find out how your team can get involved in After the Bell, visit us at afterthebell.foodbankscanada.ca.