September 22

June Muir, CEO of the Unemployment Help Centre, looks over fresh produce during the kickoff of the Plentiful Harvest at the Unemployment Help Centre in Windsor on Tuesday, July 17, 2012. The program helps put fresh and frozen foods in the hands of the needy.

Photograph by: Tyler Brownbridge , The Windsor Star

The Unemployed Help Centre hopes to save millions of pounds of food that go to waste each year in Windsor and Essex County and feed hungry residents in a program that will even deliver fresh produce to neighbourhoods.

"There is so much discarded food today in our communities," CAW Local 444 president and centre board member Dino Chiodo said Tuesday as the Plentiful Harvest food rescue program was introduced.

"We need to do a better job of containing it and this is the first step towards that."

Plentiful Harvest will use a refrigerated truck to rescue food from food processors, suppliers, restaurants, banquet halls, conference centres, caterers, grocery stores and farmers, including greenhouse growers. Without the refrigerated truck and the program, food was headed to the landfill or plowed into the ground, he said.

The idea that has been kicking around for 20 years can now work because the Unemployed Help Centre can pick up the food and store it in a 3,000 square-foot room with a walkin fridge and freezer.

"This additional space that is now available will ensure that the millions of pounds of food wasted each year in Windsor and Essex County will feed many hungry residents," Chiodo said.

It doesn't stop there. With plans for a community kitchen to be completed by October, volunteers will have a place to wash, repackage or preserve fresh and prepared foods and offer families a place to learn how to cook with fresh fruits and vegetables. The kitchen will allow donated food to be preserved through canning, vacuum sealing and dehydration or for meals to be cooked or repackaged and frozen. There is a 180-plot community garden behind the centre on Cantelon Drive where families can plant and harvest their own fruits and vegetables and use the community kitchen.

The program hopes to have two vans by the fall to be able to deliver fresh food to clients in neighbourhoods where it may be difficult to get to a food bank and where there is limited availability of fresh food. Delivery to the Glengarry neighbourhood downtown and the Bloomfield neighbourhood in the west end should begin in the fall and eventually expand to other areas.

Peter Quiring, who had donated boxes of fresh greenhouse tomatoes and peppers from his Nature Fresh Farms Ltd. in Leamington, said 90 per cent of what he donates could be sold, but sometimes at a price so low, he knows it would make more of a difference to donate it and help someone else.

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