Food drive bigger, more needed than ever
By Ben Leeson, Sudbury Star
Friday, November 13, 2015 4:03:53 EST PM
Edgar Burton, who in 1987 launched the Christmas food drive that has now bears his name and has become a major fundraiser for the Sudbury Food Bank, would be proud of how it continues to grow, Sharon said Friday.
"This is much more than he ever thought it would be," she said, just prior to a press conference to launch the 2015 drive, along with the Kids Helping Kids campaign in local schools. "Especially with all the schools that are helping – he loves that.
"He would be amazingly pleased."
Edgar, a longtime Vale Divisional Shops employee, started the drive after his young daughters returned from school and asked if they could collect food for the less fortunate. He was moved, and began asking his fellow employees for donations.
Fuelled by his drive to collect "one more can than last year," as well as the tireless efforts of volunteers, what was then called the Business and Employee Food Drive had already grown by leaps and bounds when Burton passed away in 2010.
The drive now collects some 100 tons of food each year and accounts for about one-quarter of the Sudbury Food Bank's intake for the entire year.
"It's amazing that it's still going on," said Sharon, herself a dedicated volunteer with the drive. "It's Edgar's dream. Every person is important – we are all a piece of the puzzle. Sudbury needs this because, with this campaign, we feed Sudbury for four months and without that, we would go hungry."
Sudbury Food Bank administrator Dan Xilon calls the food drive a community campaign, because the community drives its success.
"Nobody's obligated to be part of it, nobody's coaxed into being part of it – people make the decision that they're going to help somebody who is hungry at this time of the year," Xilon said. "What's beautiful is the businesses and the schools that are taking part, they have made that decision. They get it, and that's just absolutely wonderful to have that."
Some of the schools taking part in Kids Helping Kids were on hand for the presser Friday, where a torch, handed out each year to the participating school which collects the most food, was passed from Chelmsford Public School to Sir Winston Churchill Public, which collected a full 28,000 cans.
"Of course, there's always room for more schools, more businesses, because we never have enough food," Xilon said. "But I'm very proud at the moment to say we have more than 700 businesses pledged to the campaign and more than 40 schools, so we are doing spectacularly well this year.
"It was always Edgar's dream to have a Kids Helping Kids campaign in the schools. I think now, he would be extremely proud of where it has gotten to and what's happening."
The drive is now one of the biggest food drives in the country per capita, Xilon said, and if successful, will bring enough to get the food bank through January, February and March – three of the coldest and toughest months of the year for those who access the service.
The food bank serves some 17,000 people each month through 48 member agencies. More than half are children.
Unfortunately, Xilon said, the number of people using the food bank – including those who are employed – continues to grow.
"There are a lot of people working, but a lot of them need help every so often," he said. "Remember, a food bank is a band-aid. It only helps you when there's not enough money at the end of the month. Sometimes, when you have that 23- or 24-hour-per-week job or two jobs, it's sometimes difficult to make all ends meet, and that's where the food bank comes into play."
The numbers of seniors and students using the food bank have also risen, Xilon said, along with young working families.
"But let's be clear – it's never the same people at the food bank. We might help somebody this month, maybe next month, then they don't need our help anymore. That's why we have been able to survive in the community and do the job we do, because once they've been helped, they know what needs to be done when they're in a position to help.
"It's really quite incredible."
For more information about the Edgar Burton Food Drive, visit www.helpingfood.org. Find the Sudbury Food Bank online at www.sudburyfoodbank.ca.