Tackling Food Insecurity

In Ottawa, food insecurity is a growing concern that affects many residents, making the work of local food banks more crucial than ever. Despite the city’s vibrant culture and thriving communities, countless families still struggle to access nutritious and affordable meals. Volunteering with a local food bank not only provides essential support to those in need but also fosters a sense of community and solidarity. In this blog, we’ll share our experience from a recent day of volunteering, highlighting the impactful work being done and how you can get involved to make a difference in the lives of your fellow Ottawans.

A growing problem

Ottawa Food Bank logo

The Ottawa Food Bank is a non-profit organization that provides fresh and non-perishable food and supplies to a network of over 100 food programs across the city. Its mission is to increase access to healthy food for all people and advocate for systemic changes that can reduce food insecurity.

The city of Ottawa is currently in a food insecurity crisis. This is evident in the work that the food bank does, with over 493,000 visits to food programs in 2023. They estimate nearly 150,000 people across the city face food insecurity. The problem is exasperated by the rising cost of living, which is causing even those in stronger economic positions to feel the pinch.

Non-perishable food only goes so far. For proper nutrition, people need access to fresh food like fruits and vegetables. That is where the Community Harvest Program comes in. The Community Harvest Program grows and collects nutritious, local produce for clients served by the Ottawa Food Bank member agencies throughout the city. In 2023, the program provided over 158 lbs. of fresh produce. 

Our Day at the farm

Zinati Realty team walking down a gravel path with trees and blue skies.

As part of our outreach into the communities that we serve, our team at Zinati Realty spent an afternoon with the Ottawa Food Bank at the Community Harvest Program. It was an event that we had been planning for a couple of months, but little did we know that there would be record-breaking high temperatures in the middle of May. Still, knowing how important the work is, we stocked up our water bottles and made the trek out to Mansfield Road, home of the food bank farm.

We arrived at the farm shortly after lunch, after a short walk down a beautiful, forested path. Once we arrived, we were greeted by one of the employees of the farm, Kai, who acted as our guide through the afternoon. We had a brief orientation, where we learned about the work they do and the rising need for their services. We were given a quick tour and talked about safety precautions to keep in mind, and then we went to our work for the day – weeding out the onion fields. 

Volunteer coordinator Kai sitting on a structure, providing orientation to the Zinati Realty Team.

Our team went to the field together and were shown the rows of onions we would be working with. The onions were covered in a biodegradable plastic that helped deliver sun to the bulbs while limiting the sun that weeds would get. Still, weeds love to grow, so there was plenty for us to pull from the ground. We spent the next two and a half hours in the sun, gently pulling weeds from around the sprouts, and taking some much-needed hydration and shade breaks.

After our time was up, we packed up our stuff and went to wash up. Each of us was covered in dirt and sweat but we were all proud of the work that we had done. A small task of weeding a garden allowed us to join the 1,000+ volunteers, who together have helped provide fresh food for those in need across the community. 

Reflecting on our time

Though our time on the farm was short, it was very fruitful. When we scheduled the event in early March, we could not have anticipated that we would be farming on the hottest day of May in years, but we are still happy that we went. Not only did we get to bond as a team, but we had the chance to contribute to our community in an important way.

Picture of the Zinati Realty team. Front: John, Back: Candice, Melissa, Tanya, Kylene, and Anna

Are you looking for a good cause to volunteer towards? The Ottawa Food Bank is always looking for more volunteers. 

Visit their website at to learn more and register as a volunteer.

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