Community Food Redistribution Warehouse opening for Kingston food providers

Non-profit food distributors in the Kingston area are set to benefit from a massive facility improvement in the city.

With the COVID pandemic expanding and exposing the number of individuals and families needing help with food access; Lionhearts, Kingston Community Health Centres (KCHC), the City of Kingston, the United Way of KFL&A and other agency partners have worked collaboratively over the last two years to make the concept of a Community Food Redistribution Warehouse (CFRW) a reality.

The new facility will drastically improve the food provider community’s ability to accept and store food donations, and should significantly cut down on the overall amount of food waste.

CFRW Project Coordinator Brenda Moore says the last couple years have brought to the forefront just how many people in the community need help with food, more than ever before and not expected to markedly decrease.

She says many were working two to three jobs to make ends meet and the pandemic eliminated so many of those available hours, and now despite those opportunities steadily returning, cost of living has grown unsustainably.

“We’ve got a 7% increase in food cost and we’ve got gasoline going through the roof,” Moore said.

“We just have such a huge population of families in Kingston that are struggling to make ends meet and there’s just no wiggle room, we’re way past wiggle room now.”

The new 11,500 square foot facility is equipped with the infrastructure to safely receive, process, store, and redistribute large scale food donations.

Among some of the key improvements the facility will benefit from are a doubling of cooler space, the addition of a walk-in freezer and the general ability to unload and house donations being transported by tractor trailer.

Moore says the non-profits who handle food donations and distribution typically just don’t have the appropriate space to handle larger scale donations, and have sometimes even been forced to turn down donations.

“Food providers don’t have those kinds of spaces,” Moore said

“They operate on such shoestrings that they don’t have that.”

Moore added that the increased storage space will also allow for different organizations to store non-food items that they otherwise would have limited space for.

She mentioned an organization like Martha’s Table receiving a donation of take out containers, a supply that was not normally needed pre-pandemic, and not having the room to store all the units.

In a statement, Executive Director of Martha’s Table Ronda Candy said the timing for this addition to the community couldn’t be better.

“At Martha’s we are anticipating an increase in the amount of food items donated; this will reduce our grocery expenses,” Candy said.

“The timing couldn’t be better as the cost of groceries is rising significantly and rapidly. The budget relief that additional donations will offer will help ensure that we meet the ever-growing nutritional needs of our community.” 

The facility itself won’t be accepting individual community donations, and will focus on accepting larger donations from businesses in the Kingston area, and allow for things like local produce to be more widely accepted and stored as opposed to ending up in landfills.

Moore also says the warehouse’s ability to receive tractor trailers will allow Kingston to receive much higher quantity donations, and said for example it will allow Kingston to be a recipient of P.E.I potatoes that Second Harvest is distributing to food banks.

Moore said in that shipment the warehouse is expected to receive 24 pallets each stacked with 250 10-pound bags of the potatoes, calling the amount “astronomical”.

Food distributors already work with a number of businesses in the community, but now especially with the enhanced space there is always a need for more to get involved.

In recent years it has become increasingly easy for businesses to donate nearly-expired food, and Moore is hopeful that more will become involved as they realize how accessible it is.

“Sometimes it’s just a business knowing how to go about it,” Moore said.

“Call Lionhearts and they’ll come and pick it up, it’s as simple as that.”

The warehouse itself will soon be able to coordinate with businesses in this capacity as well, though Moore says that is an administrative step for which the details have not yet been ironed out.

Finally Moore says as a whole, this facility will make the work easier for organizations that have been routinely bounced around from location to location, removing a lot of guesswork from different groups in the city.

The facility has experienced some minor supply chain issues delaying access to the walk-in freezer and cooler, but the hope is to be fully operational sometime in mid-April.