‘A dream come true’: Kingston launches community food warehouse

The Community Food Redistribution Warehouse in Kingston officially opened on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2022, and is located at 785 Sir John A. Macdonald Boulevard. Photo by Yona Harvey.

“We’re going to be able to help more people in our community than ever before, at a time when the need has never been greater.”

– Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson

A centralized community food distribution hub to receive, process, store, and redistribute large scale food donations for various Kingston agencies officially opened its doors on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2022. Situated near the intersection of Princess Street and Sir John A. MacDonald Boulevard, the building is centrally located and easily accessible to the dozens of agencies it will serve.

Housed in a striped gray and silver-blue warehouse, the Community Food Redistribution Warehouse (CFRW) is the culmination of over two years of planning, something Mayor Bryan Paterson spoke to at the official opening of the new centre.

Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson speaks at the CFRW launch on Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2022. Photo by Yona Harvey.

“I think it’s an incredibly important initiative. I am so proud to see all the partners, the agencies, and the volunteers that have come together to make a space like this possible,” he expressed.

“The vision behind this warehouse is incredible. We’re going to be able to help more people in our community than ever before, at a time when the need has never been greater. When we face a challenge as a community, we face it together.”

Brenda Moore, CFRW Project Manager, explained that, two years ago, at the height of the pandemic, many food agencies closed. “We had more need, but fewer agencies to help. Food security has always been an issue in our community, but during the pandemic, it skyrocketed,” she shared

After many meetings with other Kingston agencies, the realization that a redistribution warehouse was needed was obvious, Moore recalled.

“There’s nowhere in the city where a truck can pull up and unload massive donations, and store it for us, all the food providers. Agencies will be able to use this place to store perishable and non-perishable foods,” she said.

Lionhearts Inc. Executive Director, Travis Blackmore, said that they are, “overwhelmingly grateful, not just for us, but for the collective partnership. [The warehouse creates] so many more possibilities. This opens the floodgates for a lot of agencies.”

The City of Kingston, together with Lionhearts Inc., Kingston Community Health Centres (KCHC), the United Way of Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington (KFL&A), and other agency partners have spent the past year working collaboratively to make the CFRW concept a reality, the partners stated in a press release. 

CFRW Project Manager, Brenda Moore, speaks during the official launch of the CFRW. Photo by Yona Harvey.

The United Way KFL&A and the City of Kingston, with contributions from Rotary Kingston, have supported the initiative and provided five years of funding for the rented space. At 11,500 square feet, the interior of the building had enclosed office spaces on the south side, an open space for board meetings, and a few steel shelving units at the time of the opening. Shipping challenges have delayed the installation of a walk-in refrigerator, which is to be located in the middle of the warehouse.

“We should have a temporary cold storage and can slowly start working at the beginning of April,” Moore said.

Volunteers from The Good Food Box will be packing and sending out food boxes to seniors from the new warehouse. “They’ve always had a transient space… a church basement here, a school there,” said Moore, expressing relief that they now have a dedicated space for distribution.

“We are thrilled. It’s been such a collaborative effort from all the agencies talking together. Before the pandemic, we didn’t talk a lot,” Moore acknowledged.

United Way CEO Bhavana Varma also mentioned that silver linings created by the pandemic. “It kicked us right where we needed… [It forced us to say,] ‘You need to do something.’ [The warehouse] is a dream come true. It’s something we’ve aspired to. The pandemic has reminded us that we’re not alone,” she said.

The CFRW is 11,500 square feet and will soon install a walk-in refrigeration unit. Photo by Yona Harvey.

With food prices going up and distribution challenges, Varma said that the need for donated food is not going away anytime soon. Ronda Candy, Executive Director at Martha’s Table, concurred.

“At Martha’s Table, we are anticipating an increase in the amount of food items donated. This will reduce our grocery expenses. The timing couldn’t be better, as the cost of groceries is rising significantly and rapidly,” she shared.

Left to right: Lionhearts Inc. Executive Director Travis Blackmore, United Way CEO Bhavana Varma, Mayor Bryan Paterson, and Kingston Community Health Centres CEO Mike Bell at the opening of Kingston’s Community Food Redistribution Warehouse. Photo by Yona Harvey.

While the space will not be accepting donations from the community the way that food banks, the CFRW will be a collaborative and cooperative space working to enhance distribution and collection and help agencies in their efforts to address food insecurity in the region, the press release further stated.

Besides financial donations, volunteer drivers are very much needed, said Helen Mabberly, Manager of Family and Community Health at Good Food Box. For more information about the CFRW, visit the United Way of KFL&A website.

Office spaces inside the CFRW building. Photo by Yona Harvey .

The following are some quick facts on Kingston’s new Community Food Distribution Warehouse from the United Way of KFL&A.

What is it?

The Community Food Redistribution Warehouse (CFRW) is an initiative developed and implemented in partnership by: Lionhearts, Kingston Community Health Centres (KCHC), the City of Kingston, the United Way of Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington and Rotary in Kingston with contributions from many other community partners and stakeholders.
The CFRW is an 11,500 ft2 warehouse equipped with the infrastructure to safely receive, process, store, and redistribute large scale food donations.

The Purpose

A centralized Community Food Redistribution Warehouse will provide the infrastructure for partners to gather and distribute more food to stakeholders who will then share it with clients experiencing food insecurity in KFL&A. It will serve as a mechanism for local organizations to efficiently access food for their clients in a cost-effective manner.
The purpose is to establish a warehouse to facilitate the efficient collection and distribution of large donations of food to frontline agencies who share it with clients experiencing food insecurity in KFL&A. With a warehouse of 11,500 sq’, equipped with large freezers, coolers, loading dock, forklift and washing stations the CFRW will have the infrastructure to safely receive and process large scale food donations. It will serve as a mechanism for local organizations to efficiently access food for their clients in a cost-effective manner.

Impact and benefits 

The Community Food Redistribution Warehouse will:

  • Increase the amount of healthy food available to community meal providers, local charities, and agencies.
  • Create economies of scale as food providers benefit directly from efficiencies generated by the central collection and distribution of good food.
  • Increase the ability to receive, process and safely store larger donations of fresh and non-perishable food, which will allow for the distribution of those donations in manageable quantities for a longer period.
  • Create immediate cost-savings in the budgets of local frontline agencies.
  • Avoid food waste from all sources, due to storage, collection, or distribution challenges.

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