Over 6,000 people benefit from free food giveaway

This man is all smiles at the Homeland Mission free food giveaway. photo by Alicia McCutcheon

LITTLE CURRENT—The smiles were broad on the faces of over 6,000 people that attended the Homeland Mission free food giveaway at the Manitoulin Country Fest grounds in Little Current last Tuesday, November 1 as people trundled away as much food as they could muster in 20 minutes.

Pastor Rodney Deforge of Cornerstone Christian Assembly, Homeland Mission and Barney’s Bargain Barn explained that he and his army of volunteers tried the free food giveaway last year at the church grounds in Clover Valley, but there was such an overwhelming response that the police shut it down due to traffic concerns.

“I think it proved the need,” he told The Expositor in an interview following the Tuesday event. “Who else would show up and wait for two hours in line if they didn’t need it?”

Last year approximately 800 people were served; this year that number soared to over 6,000, many of them children.

There were four lines of vehicles created on the Country Fest grounds that were organized by some of the 70 volunteers. Only a few families were let into the area housing the skids of food at any given time, allowing them to take their their time and take as many loads as they could within their given time, about 20 minutes. There were certain limitations, such as one case of margarine per person. Once one car left, another vehicle was let in until the food was all gone. The volunteers included Grade 7 and 8 students from Assiginack Public School and Manitoulin Secondary School students.

“It worked out perfectly,” said a happy Pastor Deforge.

The food included 18,000 pounds of meat and 10,000 pounds of frozen vegetables.

“We didn’t know until that day what the quantities would be,” he explained, noting that trucks were still bringing items in until the last minute.

Homeland Mission sends trucks to southern Ontario twice a week to pick up food and items from distribution centres to stock Barney’s Bargain Barn and the Homeland Mission’s food bank.

“We put out a call and every distribution centre came on board,” Pastor Deforge explained.

Second Harvest, a food relocation company, did much of the work, allowing the trucks to pick up most of the food at one location.

Many people don’t realize that the money raised through Barney’s Bargain barn goes back to the youth of the community. In August alone, $19,000 was donated to youth programming on the Island from the direct proceeds of the Bargain Barn.

“We now have a hockey sponsorship for low income families, all because of Barney’s,” he said.

Pastor Deforge said the food giveaway is near and dear to his heart and he’s looking to hosting another one with Country 103 following Christmas, when people’s pocketbooks are often at a low.

“I’m really about bringing jobs to the Island and I love bringing food to the North,” he added.

Pastor Deforge was effusive in his praise of Craig and Kelly Timmermans for the use of the Country Fest property, the many volunteers, distribution centres and Second Harvest and everyone who helped make the event possible.

A tally of the day’s event showed that 872 Island families were served: 1,530 adults and 1,108 children and 2,300 adults and 1,100 children from off-Island from as far away as Sault Ste. Marie, Parry Sound and Exeter.

Pastor Deforge said the word he received from Little Current businesses about the economic spinoff was positive as well, a fact that made him all the happier.