A collaborative project is underway across Prescott and Russell to prepare and distribute more than 10,000 meals for distribution through several regional food banks. The goal is to share nourishing, comforting and convenient meals with those experiencing high levels of financial stress or isolation and who may not often be able to enjoy a quality, chef-prepared meal.

This project is an expansion of a model that was launched in 2020 by the Rotary Club of Hawkesbury. The meals are professionally prepared and frozen by three local caterers in the region – Vankleek Hill’s A Catered Affair, Groupe Convex in Hawkesbury and Académie du gourmet in Embrun. Prescott and Russell Community Services in turn transports the frozen meals to food bank partners who have signed on as distribution points.

In May 2020, the Rotary Club of Hawkesbury was among many community organizations to receive funding from the United Counties of Prescott and Russell through the Ontario government’s Social Services Relief Fund, which is designed to assist vulnerable residents of the community. At that time, the Hawkesbury Rotary club received $65,000 from the counties for the meal delivery project.

The work to prepare the meals contributes to regional economic recovery efforts. Prescott and Russell’s economic recovery plan indicates that the restaurant and hospitality sectors are among the hardest hit in our region. For Groupe Convex, a social enterprise that hires adults with disabilities, the preparation of these meals enables several employees to return to work.

It is estimated that one in seven Ontario families are in a situation of food insecurity and that only one in five food insecure households access food banks for help. These challenges are even greater during the pandemic, with many people having to turn to food aid for the first time.

The Eastern Ontario Health Unit, as part of a larger poverty awareness campaign warns that without good food, our communities suffer in lost potential and additional burdens on our healthcare system.

Beyond Covid – Building back with stronger Prescott and Russell community food programs

The meal project is one part of a collective effort of more than 20 regional partners to strengthen community food programs through collaboration during and beyond the pandemic.

A fall 2020 community-wide consultation which included businesses, service clubs and organizations, United Way of East Ontario and the United Counties of Prescott and Russell kickstarted a collaborative approach that resulted in four innovative projects.

The four projects resulting from this collaboration have been launched thanks to funding in the amount of $180,917 from the United Counties of Prescott and Russell through the Province of Ontario’s Social Services Relief Fund:

  1. The meal delivery project
  2. A sponsored garden in Embrun which will donate over 7,000 pounds of freshly harvested produce to local food banks
  3. A communications campaign, “Strong community begins with a good meal” supporting food banks in their communications needs and using new language and outreach to increase the visibility of community food programs and combat the stigma associated with poverty and accessing help
  4. A project to expand food delivery services across the Prescott and Russell region from food banks to struggling households

If you or someone you know is struggling, dial 2-1-1 to access information on community food sources as well as other services that are in your area.