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A simple plan for a complex problem

In this Rooted feature we join a group of friends as they drop off food and other items they collected during their Stronger Together communityneighbourhood food drive for the Guelph Food Bank

The letter was simple and to the point.

“We are writing this letter to inform you that we have organized a food drive and we are looking for your help,” was the opening line. “We take pride in our community and understand during this uncertain time, some members of our community may find it difficult and will be reaching out for support.”

It didn’t take long for people to respond.

“We handed out these fliers and before we even got home there was stuff on my step already,” said Ed Clayson. “People in my neighbourhood, over and over again, thanked me for doing it.”

On the last weekend of April, Clayson and his wife Wendy distributed 100 fliers to their neighbours on Foxwood Crescent and other homes in the Kortright Hills area. They coordinated their efforts with three other friends in the city.

“We figured, because there were four of us, that we would capture a good amount of area versus just one of us doing it,” said Betsy Scott. “I am in the south end so, around the university. We had a friend downtown on Fountain Street and another that lives out in the country.”

Scott and her husband Damian as well as the others, decided to deliver the fliers the old-fashioned way, by hand, to reach people who might not go online or use social media.

Each letter included a list of items the Guelph Food Bank needed and an address in their neighbourhood where the items could be dropped off.

“We kept it simple,” said Scott. “We made sure social distancing was there. I put a line on my letter saying between 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. you can drop off your stuff. We put a wagon at the end of the driveway, and we put something on the porch if it rained.”

People were quick to donate items on the list as well as things the organizers hadn’t considered.

“People are very creative,” said Clayson as he sorted through the bags and boxes in the back of his SUV. “I couldn’t believe some of the things people put in. Here is a bunch of toothpaste. Another one donated shampoo. It was fun to see.”

There were also cash donations.

“I got a cheque in an envelope that I didn’t open,” said Clayson. “We got diapers in that one, shampoo and yeast. You can’t seem to find yeast anywhere. Here’s another cheque.”

In one week, they collected more than 370 kg of food and grocery items as well $1,000 in donations to the Guelph Food Bank.

“We did it over seven days from Monday to Sunday,” said Scott. “We were constantly picking up stuff, putting it in the garage and waiting for the next load.”

Clayson said the success of their food drive reflects how generous the community can be when given the opportunity.

“We get the Guelph Food Bank bag in our mailbox every once in a while, and we always had good intentions and then, for whatever reason, it just doesn’t work,” he said. “I thought we could make it easy for our neighbours and just do it here because everyone else may have great intentions and just never get it done either so, it made it easy.”

Food Bank staff and volunteers welcomed Clayson and Scott when they pulled up to the loading dock at the Guelph Food Bank at 100 Crimea St, Thursday.

“It has come at a really good time because our spring food drive didn’t net nearly what it needs to, to carry us through to the fall food drive,” said Guelph Food Bank administrator Pauline Cripps. “We typically see a slowdown during the summer months when all the businesses and the schools shutdown and all the food drives dry up a bit.”

The conditions of the pandemic have made it harder this year to fill the shelves and at the same time created an increased demand for food and other items

“Because of COVID happening and everything shutting down way earlier than normal we have found a huge drop off in our non-perishable donations,” said Cripps. “So, independent food drives like this are really what are keeping some of our shelves full right now.”

Scott was impressed by the support their drive received.

“We’ve had neighbours ask if this is ongoing,” she said. “A couple ladies asked if we are going to be leaving the wagon out all the time because it will save them from driving up to the grocery store where they always go.”

She hopes others will be inspired to organize a drive of their own.

“Damian and I were thinking that it wouldn’t hurt to do it again in a couple weeks just to bring it back up again,” she said. “But we also thought maybe it would be good to extend it out to other people that want to do it.”

That would be a welcome development for Cripps and the folks at the Food Bank.

“We are getting a few,” said Cripps. “It is starting to take off, which is really awesome.”

If you are interested in starting a drive of your own or simply make a donation to the Guelph Food Bank visit: