With its finances at a crisis point, Harvest Algoma received a major funding boost that saves and stabilizes the organization.
Last night at the regular meeting of City Council, Algoma Steel Inc. representative John Naccarato announced a $120,000 donation to Harvest Algoma. The funding will be spread over a three-year period.
“We have been following the story about Harvest Algoma for some time,” Naccarato told council. “We recognize how strong they are as a force for food security in our community. We’re a founding member of the United Way. We recognize that we’re partners in our community. We have to help individuals. We have to provide the foundation for people to succeed and it’s our pleasure to be able to do this.”
Harvest Algoma is a program of the United Way. Its services include food rescue, preparation and production and works closely with local food banks, soup kitchens and several social services groups.
It has struggled with a lack of funding and rising costs.
The financial picture shows $261,000 confirmed revenue from community partners and private donations against a budget of $416,000. The ASI donation will help, but Harvest Algoma is still looking to four local agencies to bridge the gap. Having made presentations to each, they’re awaiting word on a commitment.
Mayor Matthew Shoemaker expressed his thanks to ASI on behalf of council and Sault Ste. Marie.
“Algoma’s success as we’ve seen in recent years translates to the benefit of our entire community,’ said Shoemaker. “We really appreciate the outreach…and the commitment that you’ve landed with and announced today.”
More good news for food security in the Sault and area came later when council unanimously approved a funding request of $180,000 for Harvest Algoma. The funds will be awarded over three years at $60,000 annually.
The monies will be drawn from the City’s Community Development Fund. The Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre plans to purchase Harvest Algoma, but is still looking for partners. A deal could be finalized when the Innovation Centre’s board meets at the end of the month.
To that end, David Thompson, director of RAIN (Rural Agri-Innovation Network) presented council with a new vision for Harvest Algoma.
Thompson said the $60,000 annual funding will provide stability to the program “as our organization develops programming and activities that will reduce the burden to community partners over time.”
Harvest Algoma, in partnership with RAIN, said Thompson, “Can be a catalyst for change. Not just providing food, but being a community pillar for community training and community building, through food.”
He said the new vision combines strengths of RAIN as well as Harvest Algoma’s staff, volunteers and resource networks, Thompson added.
Prior to the vote on the motion, Shoemaker, echoing comments from Ward 1 Councillor Sonny Spina, said, “It’s not too often we get to touch on something that has such a vast impact across our community but this is one of those times. We’re often hand-cuffed in helping with social problems because…they’re outside municipal control,” he added.
But in this case, we have the ability to directly help our community and that’s what we’re being asked to do. And it would be an enormous loss if we had this service, and lost it.”
Shoemaker said even with the funding, additional work needs to be done and he pledged to continue to work with partnering agencies to commit to the viability of Harvest Algoma, and its goal to become self-sustaining or to operate with a sustainable model.
In turn, Harvest Algoma and the Innovation Centre are to establish an advisory committee and produce an annual ‘report card’ for council on its finances and progress to stabilize the program.