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A delivery driver from Second Harvest waits for a volunteer at the Grant African Methodist Episcopal Church to take a food delivery in Toronto on Wednesday, March 18, 2020, ahead of their weekly food bank service. Second Harvest acts as a broker for small non-profit agencies such as soup kitchens and connects them with large producers of perishable food.Chris Young/The Canadian Press

Food banks and other organizations that distribute meals have already put in place programs to distribute some of the $100-million in funding the federal government announced Friday as part of its plan to ensure the neediest do not go hungry during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Second Harvest, which acts as a broker for small non-profit agencies such as soup kitchens and connects them with large producers of perishable food, is distributing $4.5-million in grants through its website, the organization announcedMonday. Portions of that $4.5-million are available to any non-profit or charity that supports a community through food programs, Second Harvest said.

Other organizations, such as Community Food Centres Canada, plan to increase the size of their food hampers and expand delivery programs, Nick Saul, the organization’s chief executive, said in an interview.

The impact on charitable food organizations across Canada because of COVID-19 has been stark. Long-planned fundraisers had to be cancelled because of the need for physical distancing, while their ranks of volunteers, many of them elderly, suddenly dried up because of concerns about catching the virus. On top of this, the organizations expect a spike in demand as unemployment rises.

In response, the Liberal federal government announced Friday that it was giving $100-million to a number of food organizations. Ottawa has earmarked $50-million for Food Banks Canada, which has member food banks in regions across the country, another $20-million to be split between four organizations, including Second Harvest, and another $30-million for local-level organizations.

Lori Nikkel, CEO of Second Harvest, said while some of the restaurants it relies on for food have shut their doors, the charity itself has an excess of supply. The closing of so many establishments has created a glut of food that needs to be eaten – and Second Harvest’s bigger problem now, she said, is getting it to groups in need.

“The supply is there right now. Supply is heavy right now, and so we have to make sure that everyone knows at [the smaller non-profits and soup kitchens] can access food,” Ms. Nikkel told The Globe and Mail.

Mr. Saul of Community Food Centres Canada, which has 13 locations across the country, credited the federal government for quickly making the funding available. Mr. Saul said it took about a week for Ottawa to announce the funding after he and his peers in the food security sector implored the Ministry of Agriculture to act.

The pandemic has been disruptive to the rationale behind Community Food Centres, Mr. Saul said. Unlike many food banks, where users pick up food and leave, clients of the centres are encouraged to cook and eat together – and in a pandemic that’s not possible, Mr. Saul said.

“We’re deeply concerned about what this means for people who have already been pushed to the sidelines," Mr. Saul said. “They would come into our Community Food Centres and find a home – a place of stability where obviously they could eat well, meet their neighbours, feel less isolated and start to move in a better way.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article said there are 11 Community Food Centres when there are in fact 13.

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