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The London Food Coalition and Ark Aid
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By Mike Toth



Matthew 25: 35+36:  For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;  naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’

A couple of years ago Doug Whitelaw, Executive Director of the Ark Aid Street Mission here in London, heard a CBC report about food waste, specifically fresh produce from grocery stores, and the efforts of a sixth grade class in Hamilton to redirect the produce from the dumpsters to the hungry. To be fair, the wastage was usually a result of company policy rather than local managers simply deciding to dump the food out the back. Whitelaw was inspired to try the same here.

“Ninety-nine percent of what is discarded is usable food,” says Whitelaw. “A volunteer of ours who works for Costco said that the manager believed they were throwing too much food out, and got the two of us together.” The first load the Ark received was 1,600 bananas, and they had a tough time distributing them all.


Kathryn Callahan, Basic Needs Coordinator, Child Youth Network and Distribution Centre Coordinator and Paul Presant, Driver.

Initially the program was totally organic, with no set strategy and personnel and volunteers sorting and distributing the produce to other organizations. They ran into a glitch, though, in that Costco corporate policy stated that any donated food had to leave in a refrigerated truck (to preserve the food and keep the end users safe). It was difficult, but for a while the Ark had to turn down the donations of fresh food. The generosity of Ark Aid was getting noticed, however, and a coalition quickly began to build.

The Inter Community Health Center, across the street from and already a friend of the mission, got on board helping to advocate for City of London involvement. The City did catch the vision quickly with the Child and Youth Network and Healthy Kids Community Challenge championing the acquisition of a refrigerated truck.

Other partners in the community came quickly on board. Two different chapters of Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union, donated $5,000 each. London City Chrysler caught the vision early as well, donating $5,000 and facilitating the purchase of the truck. The Salvation Army Centre of Hope has agreed to be the central distribution point, and North Park Church is doing the pick ups on Sunday when the Ark is closed. Partner organizations donate a minimum of $75 a month depending on how much food they receive. The plan, when fully implemented, is for Ark Aid to make the pick ups, drop the food off at the Centre of Hope for sorting, and partner organizations picking up at the Centre of Hope to then redistribute the food to those in need.

Is it working? In the last two weeks over a ton and half of fresh produce that would have traditionally ended up in the dumpster was instead redirected to programs that feed those in need.

“If you serve, people will get on board,” says Whitelaw. “When you create relationships, other resources can be shared. Churches have been focused on thinking of the ‘in,’ but people are not coming in like they used to. We must start thinking about going “out.”

If you are interested in joining the London Food Coalition you can send them an email at: mail@londonfoodcoalition.com or to donate, mail@londonfoodcoalition.com. The Ark Aid Street Mission is located at 696 Dundas Street in London, and can be reached at 519-667-0322.