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Fresh Food Weekly program bags charitable status

'Now that I have charitable status, hopefully I will be able to do a lot more things,' says Fresh Food Weekly founder Leah Dyck

Leah Dyck has managed to turn lemons into lemonade since losing her job due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In mid-2021, the Barrie woman launched her new community initiative, called Fresh Food Weekly, with a goal of reducing food insecurity by providing food to those who need it, and has only seen the need for the program grow.

Dyck’s first delivery took place during the first week of June 2021, and at the time she estimated that over the four months that followed she received more than $50,000 of donated fresh food and bread items. 

Just prior to that, in May 2021, Dyck says she applied for charitable status for the new food program. After 14 months of red tape, Dyck finally got word on July 19 that she had been approved  and that Fresh Food Weekly is now officially a registered charity with the Canada Revenue Agency.

The process was stressful, she says, adding at times she felt as though she wasn’t being taken seriously.

After multiple roadblocks and delays however, she has hit the ground running and has already started applying for additional grants to help fund the program.

“It’s huge (and) does two major things for me,” she told BarrieToday of being granted official charitable status. “First of all, I can now apply for 99 per cent of grants. I just received a $1,000 grant from the Rotary Club and last year I received a $1,500 grant from Georgian College. But those were the only two grants in Barrie that I could apply for without charitable status.

"It was great that I was able to get them, but now I can apply for so many more, which is what I am doing," Dyck added. 

Dyck says she recently applied for grants that would provide monthly funding to cover some of the more administrative aspects of the charity, such as running the website, fuel for picking up the food as well as the cost of the kitchen rental, which is needed twice a month.

“There are all of these other costs that I don’t include in the cost of the food box," she said. "My plan has always been to get a grant to cover those expenses, because people don’t want to pay for marketing materials. They want to pay for the food to feed people.”

Dyck says she will now also be able to issue charitable tax receipts to donors. 

“Now that I have charitable status, hopefully I will be able to do a lot more things. I don’t expect to get a $1-million one… but maybe down the road I can! Ideally, I want to build my own facility,” she said. “I am going to need a walk-in fridge, walk-in freezer, and a pick up place for all the volunteers to come and get their cars loaded up.”

Dyck is also excited about a new partnership with Innisfil-based Tempo Plastics, which she said has agreed to provide the program with all of its delivery bags for one year free of charge. 

“I found out about them last year and I have always wanted to get an in with them. They’re a huge food-packaging manufacturing plant. As soon as I got charitable status, I reached out to the CEO and asked if they’d be able to supply us with 180 bags a month, and he said they could easily do that for us,” she said. “I am going in on Aug. 4 to design a custom bag, which is very exciting.”

Launched in June, Dyck says the new meal-box program is the result of two successful fundraising runs at Christmas and Easter.

“Each month, we'll put together a box of locally sourced and fresh food and to start, we're creating 50 meal boxes a month. In addition, they can only be purchased on behalf of a low-income family living in Barrie, and so every month we're going to be fundraising enough to cover their costs,” Dyck explained.

She has partnered with two local farmers who are helping source locally grown and raised food, including milk, cheese, eggs, butter, meat, produce, bakery bread and desserts.

Dyck admits that since launching the program last year, she has experienced a lot of push back, but says she has no intention of letting that stop her from continuing to help find a small way to address the issue of food insecurity in her community.

“It’s hard, but I am really good at this and it is making a big difference. One day I will get paid for this, but the world needs me to not get a job right now," she said. 

For more information, or to sponsor a food box, click here

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About the Author: Nikki Cole

Nikki Cole has been a community issues reporter for BarrieToday since February, 2021
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