History of Hamilton Food Share

In 1988, 6 food banks established Hamilton Food Share as a collective initiative. The food banks met regularly as a sub-committee reporting to the City of Hamilton’s Regional Food and Shelter Committee. Instead of launching six food drives at Christmas with all vying for media coverage and community support, they joined resources and held one city wide annual food drive where they would share in the collection of donated food during the Christmas season.

In the second year of the annual food drive a company donated 10 pallets of food. The company did so because their contribution would go across the city. The food banks were unable to pick it up and unable to receive it without making special provisions and spending an enormous amount of time in doing so. Attempting to meet the logistic requirements of industrial shipping and receiving within the food industry proved to be too challenging for this kind of a coordinated effort. Most food donations used at the food banks came in the form of grocery bags from the local community.

It was then that two concepts emerged. First, they knew there was a great advantage in working together to raise food for all the emergency food programs. Second, there were large food contributions that could be donated to emergency food programs by partnering with the food industry resulting in one request for donated food supplies that is shared by emergency food programs across and the city. The development of these two concepts inspired a work plan to hire a staff person to research and develop this untapped source for food contributions. In addition to this food gleaning initiative the program would also undertake activities to bring about awareness, educate our community on the issues and extent of hunger and involve our local community at every stage.

Hamilton Food Share was born in the spring of 1990, hiring Joanne Santucci as the Executive Director. Within a year, she created and launched a pilot project called the Food Recovery Program. The initiative was moved from an office setting to a small warehouse space that possessed a dock. It would have all the crucial elements that would meet the food industry standards for shipping, receiving and storing of donated supplies. In 1992, with the support of the six agencies, the Executive Director transitioned the initiative from a grass roots collective action of six food banks to a community wide non-profit, nondenominational registered charity with nine member agencies (including the original six agencies as members). The members of Hamilton Food Share today represent nine food banks and seven hot meal programs. The food recovery program raised 100,000 in its first year of operation. Today Hamilton Food Share raises over 2.7 MILLION pounds of donated food annually and 85% of donations are raised from the food industry. This is food that was not accessible to local emergency food programs until Hamilton Food Share’s Food Recovery program was established. (See annual Report for the membership list and food recovery sources).