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Niagara Falls Church Growing Food Recovery Project

man standing in front of racks of baked goods
Pastor Steven deBoer is leading a food recovery program in Niagara Falls, Ont., to help combat hunger.

The Bridge Church provides a community for people living in poverty and often experiencing homelessness in Niagara Falls, Ont. They began partnering with a local convention center to recover meals that otherwise might have gone to waste. Since starting this project, they have connected with La Tablée des Chefs, an organization from Quebec that has helped them expand their project.

The tagline for the project is “no hunger, no waste.” Steve deBoer, mission pastor at The Bridge, said, “We have a lot of waste, and we have hunger. We really see that those two are connected and that the food recovery is all about establishing relationships with hotels, restaurants, banquet centers, convention centers, long-term care homes—any food-serving organization or business in our city—and having a relationship with them by which we recover the food that would have otherwise been thrown out.”

The Bridge is partnered with Niagara Falls Convention Centre, which regularly hosts large events. When the convention center has leftover food, they call the volunteers at The Bridge to arrange for them to pick up the leftovers. DeBoer said, “It’s always in a temperature-controlled environment, always (documented) in a dated way” to ensure the food remains safe.

After they pick up the food, they process it and then redistribute it to organizations who are supporting individuals in the city.

In January, deBoer was invited to speak about the project at a city council meeting (starts at 1:05:45 mark), and has been encouraged by how the city is rallying behind this project. “I think when we concern ourselves with things that the cities are concerned about, and we look to be solution-focused and work to network with other people, no matter who they are … I think it transcends a lot that divides us.”

One of the organizations that benefits from the Food Recovery Project is The Bridge’s own Breakfast Program. DeBoer said they serve breakfast 365 days of the year, and last year they served over 20,000 breakfasts. Though the breakfast program does get some of the recovered food, deBoer said, the main focus of the Food Recovery Project is to “serve all of the missions of our city on a wider scale, to respond to food insecurity in all the corners of the city.”

The Bridge’s recent connection with La Tablée des Chefs from Montreal, Que., is helping them to scale up faster. La Tablée has been running a food recovery project for over 25 years. They got connected with deBoer through the Niagara Falls Convention Centre and are now partnering together to make a bigger impact. “We’re benefiting from their experience and infrastructure,” deBoer said.

Part of the Food Recovery Project’s expansion is a partnership with Faith Fellowship CRC in Niagara Falls, which will allow The Bridge the use of its basement. Just how big of a use will depend on grant fund applications, deBoer said. If they receive the full grant, there will be enough to completely renovate the basement into an industrial kitchen, but if fewer or no funds come in that way, a donor from La Tablée des Chefs is willing to fund a large walk-in cooler unit that would be installed at Faith Fellowship instead. They should know about the funding by Fall 2024.

The Bridge is in the process of hiring a full-time operations manager for the Food Recovery Project, and they recently hired a full-time community support worker. They also have a summer student, who is working in part on community connections for the project.

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