Mountain food bank welcomes farmer tax credit

New law could mean more fresh produce for Hamilton food banks.

Hamilton food bank users may be able to help themselves to more locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables next year.

The Ontario government last week passed legislation that makes Ontario farmers eligible for a 25 per cent tax credit based on the fair market value of produce they give to food banks.

“This is a great opportunity for us,” said Denise Arkell, executive director of Neighbour to Neighbour Centre, which operates a food bank that is used by as many as 1,300, mostly Mountain families, each month.

This past year Arkell noted they received fresh produce from six local growers and the new tax credit should motivate more farmers to give.

“We will be approaching all of the farmers in the area as of January to let them know about this opportunity and to ask them to support us,” said Arkell, who added the tax credit will complement the fresh produce they receive each year from as many as 20 community gardens.

Arkell said they are seeking more information on the legislation, including how fair market value of donated produce will be determined.

Joanne Santucci, executive director of Hamilton Food Share, an umbrella organization that works with 10 local food banks in the Hamilton area, said she hopes the new tax credit will build on what she calls the already generous support of local farmers.

“We have very generous farmers in this area who give,” said Santucci. “I don’t think it will have a huge impact on whether they’ll give more. But for anybody who is thinking about giving and isn’t really sure, it can be the tipping point for maybe more contributions to come in.”

Santucci said the tax credit could defray some of the costs associated with harvesting and transporting surplus crops which might otherwise be plowed back into farm fields.

“It might cover some of the costs of contributing, but it’s not a money-maker and it was never meant to do that,” she said.

With files from Mike Pearson