How Windsor Lifeline Outreach helps feed families in their community

May 12, 2023

At Morton Food Service, we have the privilege of working with some exceptional people. This includes independent restaurant owners, farmers, food producers, chefs and more—and sometimes, it extends to individuals or organizations that are making a difference in their community. Here’s one great example: Windsor Lifeline Outreach(WLO), a faith-based nonprofit organization that strives to help transition at-risk community members out of poverty. This includes support with clothing, education and of course, access to much-needed food. WLO currently consists of a small but mighty team led by executive director Jeremiah Bettany, who we’re proud to work with.

How WLO gives back

Food insecurity exists in every community and Windsor is no exception. A number of food banks and local support agencies exist but in 2021, WLO alone brought in over 377,780 lbs of food donations—and every last bit was redistributed to individuals and families in need. Some of these people were working individuals who were living below the poverty line, others had left dangerous situations, some were refugees and others had grown up in marginalized communities here in Canada. Poverty can affect anyone, and WLO sees people from all walks of life.

Windsor Lifeline Outreach currently supports 22 organizations in and around Windsor by collecting and redistributing necessities such as food and clothing. Some of the places WLO works with includes the Windsor Life Centre. The centre is a long-term residential women’s recovery centre for women battling drug and alcohol addiction. The WLO team also supports Street Help, Street Health, Christian Horizons, Launch Pad, Safe Families, Hazel Farms, Harvest Hands, Helping Hands, Matthew House, Active Care Response, Hand in Hand, LaSalle Teen Health Centre and more. By providing much-needed items to a variety of critical resource programs throughout the Windsor area, WLO is able to maximize their impact while providing fast, actionable help to communities in need.

Understanding food insecurity in Windsor

There is a common misconception that food banks are primarily used by unhoused individuals or people who find themselves out of work. While this does describe some of the population served by WLO, there are also a significant number of individuals who work full-time jobs at a low wage. These hardworking community members simply cannot make ends meet and find themselves seeking support from WLO and other resources in order to feed themselves and their families. They are forced to make difficult decisions about buying groceries, paying rent or putting gas in their car/money on their transit pass so they can get to work. Sometimes, buying food drops lower on the priority list because housing or getting to work takes precedence. This is a very real and persistent issue in many Ontario communities.

How Morton is helping WLO

Morton Food Service makes every effort to avoid food waste, so we reached out to Windsor Lifeline Outreach with an offer: take our unsold products and redistribute them to local families through their network of community agencies. They accepted, and now a team member from WLO comes to Morton Food Service two or three times a week to pick up items for the food bank. This is a win-win situation in every sense of the word as Morton avoids food waste, WLO gains access to high quality food products and at-risk communities members are provided with much-needed nutrition. We’re still in the early stages of this relationship but it’s been incredibly fruitful and positive for everyone involved.

What we love about working with WLO is their commitment to using everything we give them (plus all of their other food donations) and their ability to get items exactly where they need to go. For example, some organizations make and serve hot meals, so they require fresh ingredients. Other places look for non-perishable items such as canned goods. WLO knows what each organization needs and gets it to them very efficiently.

And because our prices are so competitive, WLO has also started using some of their food budget to purchase items from us in bulk. It’s a fantastic arrangement where low cost purchases and frequent donations go hand-in-hand. 

Food is a necessity

Food is a necessity and no family should go hungry. There are over 1500 households in Windsor currently facing food insecurity, and that’s simply not okay. Adults, seniors and children are all affected. Approximately 55 refugee families are currently receiving support in the region right now. Some grocery stores throw out an abundance of food each and every week while others make efforts to donate it. We encourage everyone in the community to look into food waste in their community and be a part of the solution by finding ways to redistribute this necessity within the community.

A lot of our team is based in Windsor, and it feels good to support individuals and families in our own backyard. These are great people dealing with challenging times, and they deserve the same kindness, dignity, care and respect we all want from life. We’re deeply grateful to Windsor Lifeline Outreach for the exceptional work they do, and for how they’ve helped us give back to our own community. Social responsibility is incredibly important to the Morton team, and WLO has made it easy to give back. We thank them for this and everything else they do!

An invisible need

As Jeremiah recently noted, food insecurity is like an iceberg: you only see the very tip of what’s happening in your community while the majority remains hidden from view. Knowing this, it’s important to support things like school breakfast programs, particularly in low income areas, and to give back to local food banks and clothing drives. There is more need than many of us can begin to fathom, but fortunately, there are people working hard to alleviate poverty and help our neighbours create a better life. It’s often hard to ask others for help, but giving back may be easier than you could imagine. Jeremiah shared with our team that he and his wife were once food bank users themselves, and now, they are in a position to help others in need. He understands what a mental and spiritual lift it can be to receive a good meal, a new outfit or even a shave and a haircut—these moments of kindness and human touches that make all the difference and give people hope.

To quote Jeremiah a final time: “Empathy is a powerful force, and empathy with no agenda is what we need. I believe in the fundamental principle of feeding people with zero agenda and zero expectation of anything in return—it’s just about being there for people.”

Let’s work together to help neighbours in need

If you live in or near Windsor, here’s what you can do: tell your local grocery store and independent restaurants that WLO will pick up unused food ingredients and redistribute them to families in need. Plan a clothing drive or collect a high needs product such as formula, diapers or personal hygiene products (WLO can support your efforts by picking up these items and effectively redistributing them). And if you need help picking up or delivering food or other necessities, give Morton a call—we’re here to offer our support as well. Thanks for reading and caring about your neighbours. Together, we can make a positive difference in our community.