The Halton Region Collaborative Project on Food Security is a partnership between Food for Life (the administrative lead), several Halton based food banks, Food for Thought, the Halton Fresh Food Box Program and the Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB).

With the encouragement of the United Way of Oakville and other stakeholders, these partners formed the Halton Region Food Bank Network (HRFBN), whose primary objectives are:

  1. to link Halton Region to the newly funded Provincial Food Distribution Network (PFDN)
  2. to enhance our collective capacities to provide food and 3) to improve service delivery to the residents of Halton in need.

The model for the PFDN was first piloted in Southwest Ontario with funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF), leadership from the Waterloo Regional Food Bank and the participation of eighty-nine local food banks. Utilizing a "hub and spoke" model (Attachment #1) to distribute food which has been solicited on a collective basis from food manufacturers throughout southwestern Ontario and with Waterloo Regional Food Bank as the hub, the partners were able to increase food volumes distributed by over ten million pounds during the three years of the pilot project. Because of its demonstrated success the OAFB is now using this model to build the new PFDN, with another multi-year Ontario Trillium Foundation grant. The goal is to improve food distribution by building "a comprehensive, equitable and transparent provincial distribution network to increase the quantity, quality and timeliness of food distributed across Ontario." In doing so, OAFB sees a transition "from a relatively informal partnership of food banks to a coordinated network, with an integrated system of distribution and a level of cooperation that will ensure a high level of service to those in need."

In early 2007, the Regional Municipality of Halton approved funding so that the Halton Region Food Bank Network (HRFBN) could conduct a feasibility study on creating a model for connecting up to nine food banks and a food recovery program to each other and to the PFDN. In October, 2007, the report on the feasibility study was presented to stakeholders. It qualified and quantified the feasibility, cost and benefits of the proposed model, and gave as well the requirements for moving from the current food supply arrangements to a new system, i.e. an implementation plan.
For more info, download "Food For All: A Blueprint for Regional Collaboration in Halton to Acquire and Distribute More, Fresher Food to Halton's Hungry" (PDF).

In the Report, the Project Work Group proposed a model – called "Halton Food For All" (now officially called ReFresh Foods) –which consists of a regional food acquisition and distribution hub with a central warehouse and refrigerated storage as well as refrigerated transportation to its members. In this model, the hub takes on collective solicitation from corporate food donors on behalf of all its members in Halton, ships the resulting larger-size shipments into its central warehouse and then safely transports custom-sized orders on a timely basis to its member agencies, who in turn share the food with their clients.

In the months following, stakeholders considered the report and its recommendations and provided feedback. Mostly, it was very favourable. The OAFB Board has formally endorsed the report, which means that when it is established, ReFresh Foods will be a component in the PFDN, and Halton residents in need will thus receive a share of food via the National Food Sharing System (NFSS).

One issue for which feedback was sought is governance. The report laid out three governance options, but did not make a recommendation. During the consultation process, the Board of Food For Life volunteered to play a leadership role, if no other agency stepped forward as leader, so that the Project could continue. In February, 2008, food banks and key stakeholders confirmed Food For Life as leader, and made several suggestions regarding governance structures and processes to ensure stakeholder involvement in decision-making.

In December 2008, ReFresh Foods held its official launch into the community at Ippolito Fruit and Produce (read the article in the Burlington Post). With over 100 in attendance, the event was a great start to the program. Our Manager of Corporate Food Solicitation raised over 233,000 lbs of donated food in our first 8 months of operations and our newly hired driver has been delivering food on a weekly basis to food banks and front line social service agencies across the Halton region.