Dale Snider was district manager at a Farm Credit Canada office in Listowel, Ont., almost nine years ago, servicing southwestern Ontario beef country and surrounded by misery.
BSE had struck in Alberta the previous year and international markets were closed to Canadian exports.
Farm communities were hurting and rural food banks in the area had a surge in clients.
“I saw farmers producing some of the best food in the world and yet many were having a hard time putting food on their own tables,” he said. “It was a really depressing time.”
Based on what he saw as the FCC ethic of being involved in the community as well as the help-your-neighbour ethos of his Mennonite faith, Snider decided to do something about it.
He was about to go on vacation and decided to use his time driving a tractor and wagon through the farmland and small towns of Perth, Grey and Bruce counties collecting food and donations for food banks.
FCC put up a $20,000 donation and he promised to match it with donations or the equivalent of 20,000 pounds of food.
The FCC Drive Away Hunger program was born and in the almost-decade since, FCC employees have organized annual food drives that have collected more than nine million pounds of food and $760,000 for food banks.
The 10th annual campaign was launched last week at the Ottawa Food Bank warehouse.
FCC set a goal of five million lb. of food or equivalent donations, more than half of what it has collected in nine years.
The crown corporation began this year’s campaign with a $100,000 donation to Food Banks Canada to promote Hunger Awareness Week and food banks, with particular attention to rural food banks.
“This is a tremendous program and I congratulate FCC for this, agriculture minister Gerry Ritz said during the campaign launch.
Canadian Food Banks executive director Katharine Schmidt said the Drive Away Hunger campaign is one of the 10 largest annual food drives in the country.
The focus this year will be food and donations collection in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec and Prince Edward Island.
The campaign continues until World Food Day in October. Rural food banks will be the priority.
Schmidt said food bank use is growing in Canada despite the country’s wealth.
More than one million Canadians, many of them children, are “walking through the doors of a food bank each year for assistance.”