It’s crunch time at the Regional Food Distribution Association as staff and volunteers race to produce hundreds of hampers that will be distributed on April 17 at the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition.

Volker Kromm, executive director of the RFDA, says last Friday was the last multi-location hamper distribution, at the Thunder Bay Food Bank, Amelia Street Gathering Place, the Redwood Park site on Edward St. and the Cumberland Street Salvation Army site, where more than 1,500 hampers were given out. The program has now changed to home delivery and bi-weekly pickups at the centralized food bank at the CLE.

Residents in need of a bi-weekly hamper for pickup or for home delivery are asked to call 211 to register their family. This will ensure the proper pre-packaging of each hamper.

Unlike the volunteer shopping-style of hamper preparation seen during the Christmas Cheer hamper distribution, these hampers will have already been prepared and sealed in boxes for the required amount of members in each particular family.

“We are going to keep it really, really simple at the CLE,” said Kromm, who has enlisted the Salvation Army as the overseeing body of the operation. People will be expected to adhere to safe distancing in the line, step up to the Plexiglas and give the volunteer their name, then they will receive their prepared hamper and they are to leave immediately.

“With the food bank closures, we are now dealing with the bulk of the costs and the duty of acquiring food . . . now we are into the bulk buying mode, as well as donations, but there isn’t enough,” he said.

“Right now we are buying $25,000 to $35,000 a week in food that has been ordered because the normal chain of donations and food acquisitions has been disrupted.”

Kromm and his team are also waiting on word from the “provincial hamper” and is hoping that food will arrive in time for hamper preparation, but for now, they have to do some shopping.

Feed Ontario is taking an allotted amount of money provided by the Ontario government and mobilizing a food acquisition for hamper preparations which will result in the (eventual) arrival of pre-packed hampers.

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