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Leah Dyck at Goldsmith's Farm Market & Bakery in Thornbury, Ont. Ms. Dyck runs Fresh Food Weekly, a registered food charity.Tannis Toohey/Globe and Mail

The organizer: Leah Dyck

The pitch: Creating Fresh Food Weekly

The reason: To provide food to people in need.

When Leah Dyck lost her job shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, she started thinking about people around her who had also been affected.

Ms. Dyck lives in social housing in Barrie, Ont., and she knew that many families in her building were struggling to make ends meet. So she approached some farmers and asked if they had any extra produce she could give to families in need. Several growers were happy to contribute and Ms. Dyck started out by distributing 200 pounds of parsnips to about half of the residents in her apartment block. She followed that up a week later with vegetable deliveries to the other half.

“Every week I was reaching out to more and more farmers and food businesses and getting more and more food,” Ms. Dyck recalled. By the end of the summer in 2021, she was delivering food to 267 families each week.

In the winter of 2021 she and a team of 79 volunteers began delivering boxes of Christmas meals to more than 200 families. She also helped raise $63,000 to cover the costs of future deliveries.

The Christmas drive went so well that she did something similar for Easter in 2022. And she has recently upped the distribution of food packs – which include meat, dairy products, eggs and vegetables – to once every two weeks.

The charity relies entirely on donations and Ms. Dyck said it costs about $4,000 a month to put the boxes together. Recipients must apply and show proof of income and Ms. Dyck said most of those who receive the boxes are single mothers.

Ms. Dyck, who is a 33-year-old single mother, has relied on her own experience living on social assistance to better understand what low-income families need. “I got to a point when I kind of realized, this was many years ago, that no matter how hard I worked it was never enough,” she said.

She’s overwhelmed at the support Fresh Food has received and she hopes to open a grocery store one day to deliver even more food. “Just knowing that people actually care about your well-being. It’s shocking, and it’s awesome,” she said.

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