For Wayne Dunn, the Business Cares Food Drive is about Londoners making a difference with, and for, fellow Londoners.
“That what this whole campaign has moved towards, people wanting to get involved,” said Dunn, chair of the London’s Business Cares Food Drive, which is entering its 19thyear of helping the London Food Bank and those in need in the community.
“We have a lot of first-timers join us each year because they want to.”
It’s a great time of year to do it, it’s the spirit of the season, it’s the spirit of giving, it’s the community coming together to make a difference.” ~ Wayne Dunn
Dunn kicked off the three-week campaign Friday morning at Western’s London Hall, with the help of the Grand Theatre and some of the young cast of Prom Queen, who began the event with music. Last year, the theatre community launched its inaugural #HumbugtoHunger campaign, raising an unexpected $133,169 for the food bank. The fundraiser will run again this year during the Grand’s performance of A Christmas Carol.
“This level of donation has a huge impact on our ability to raise the nutritional value of the Food Bank’s offerings,” said London Food Bank co-executive director Jane Roy. “Thanks to the thousands in the audience at the Grand, as well as the theatre’s staff and crew, we will be able to purchase more perishable food items such as milk, eggs, bread, fruit and vegetables.”
Western supports the Business Cares Food Drive through the Western Cares Food Drive, which begins officially on Monday. Green bins to hold donations will be located in the lobbies of more than 20 buildings across campus.
Dunn recalled back in 2000 when he and friend (now mayor-elect) Ed Holder began to mobilize the business community to ensure everyone in London had good for the holidays season.
That first year, they collected 36,000 pounds of food. Last year, Londoners generated donations of 435,000 pounds of food for the London Food Bank.
“Regrettably, the need continues to be there. As I have sad in the past, unfortunately, this won’t be the end of it,” he said.
Dunn said approximately 3,500 families, or 8,000 individuals, use the food bank every month, and 38 per cent of recipients are younger than 17.
“And we’ve also seen another five per cent increase from seniors seeking help over the past year,” he said. “This is 10 times the usage of approximately 25 years ago.”
Dunn added most Londoners are using the food bank as a last resort, with 35 per cent of families using its services only once per year. The majority will visit three or four times in a year, with less than two per cent relying on the food bank on a monthly basis.
Dunn said while donations to the Business Cares Food Drive assists the local food bank, another 25 London agencies are also assisted with food donations. Programs such as the Ontario Student Nutrition Program, Boys & Girls Club of London, Glen Cairn Community Resource Centre, Unity Project, Anova,Mission Services of London and My Sister’s Place benefit greatly from the food drive.
“Our goal is one pound more than last year. Better yet, to have everyone in our community to have food this Christmas and into the cold months of 2019,” said Dunn.
More than 250 area businesses have already signed up to participate, with more being added each day.
On Dec. 21, campaign volunteers deliver their truckloads of donations to the London Food Bank.
“It really is a special morning of celebration and sharing stories. I like to call it a morning of magic when everyone comes together like that,” said Dunn. “It’s a big puzzle, but when all the pieces come together over the next three weeks – and it’s a pretty heavy task, which is why we have all our volunteers around – it’s pretty amazing.
“It’s humbling to be able to help people in need,” he said. Londoners are “ very generous when it comes to helping their fellow citizen. It’s a wonderful feeling.”
Some of the non-perishable foods most needed as donations include:
- Canned vegetables & fruit
- No-salt-added canned tomatoes
- Canned tuna and salmon
- Peanut butter
- Special-diet foods (gluten-free, lactose-free, etc.)
- Dried vegetables (lentils, chick peas, legumes, etc.)
- Healthy breakfast cereals