Bayer & Food Banks Canada: A partnership built on purpose
Employees donate money and time to increase access to fresh foods for Canadians facing food insecurity.
Almost one million visits are made to a food bank every month in Canada – a third of those visits are made by children. This reflects an ongoing dilemma of food insecurity among families across Canada. It is also a challenge that Bayer employees are passionate about and helping to confront.
“Food insecurity is a stubborn, year-round problem and it requires everyone’s help,” says Chris Hatch, CEO of Food Banks Canada. “Our neighbours, our friends, our fellow Canadians – many of them don’t know where their next meal is coming from.”
Traditionally, Canadians who use food banks have had to rely on non-perishable donations. That is beginning to change, thanks to the efforts of food bank organizers, volunteers, and partners like Bayer. A growing trend in awareness about the need for fresh foods and meat is starting to take shape.
“We are very proud to direct a significant part of our annual giving in support of Food Banks Canada,” says Alok Kanti, President & CEO of Bayer, Inc. “Through our partnership we want to not only make strides in tackling food insecurity, but we want to do so by increasing access to fresh, nutritious food as well.”
It is also not just about directly supplying fresh food to Canadians in need. The Food Banks +Fresh initiative also helps to establish community gardens and other growing programs so that people can plant, tend and harvest food for their own use – or for those in need in their community.
Making a difference
Food Banks Canada is dedicated to relieving hunger today – and working to prevent it in the future. Bayer is an enthusiastic supporter of the organization and its mission.
In September and October alone, Bayer employees donated and raised more than $36,000, while also contributing more than 4,000 pounds of food through the company’s ThanksForGiving campaign.
“We truly appreciate the annual efforts of Bayer and its employees,” Hatch said. “Partners like Bayer are helping us generate awareness while also supporting our efforts to tackle food insecurity and help Canadian families.”
In one fundraising contest, Bayer employees from across Canada participated in the first-ever Bayer Builds Construction Challenge – in which teams of employees formed creative designs made from the donated items they contributed. Non-perishable foods, toiletries and feminine health products were among some of the many items donated.
The food was delivered to food banks in Mississauga, Guelph, Winnipeg and Calgary and the winning team went home with bragging rights.
In all, Bayer and its employees donated $150,000 to Food Banks Canada in 2019. A significant portion of this donation – $18,000 – was raised on a single day in September, when Bayer’s headquarters transformed its office into a mini-putt course for an in-office fundraiser tournament.
“Our goal as an organization is to help create a better life in everything we do,” Alok says. “It drives our commitment to research and science. And it inspires us to give back to those who are in need – especially when that need is coming from the communities where we live.”
Bayer-supported grants through Food Banks Canada have supported dozens of important projects, including the purchase of garden towers that will allow fresh produce to be grown year-round in Niagara Falls, Ontario, or the installation of an energy-efficient greenhouse for a community garden dedicated to at-risk youth in Saint John, New Brunswick.
Bayer-supported grants have also helped to support indoor gardening workshops and cooking clubs for food bank clients across the country.
“It’s amazing to see the excitement and passion that people have for planting and caring for their own patch of land or greenhouse,” Hatch said. “And there’s such a sense of pride when the time comes to harvest the crop.”
The power of engagement
At Bayer, employees across Canada are excited to support Food Banks Canada and other non-profit organizations through the company’s Corporate Social Engagement initiative. The use of the word “engagement” is critical, says Alok, the Bayer CEO.
“Our company is built on a culture of engagement,” said Alok Kanti, President and CEO of Bayer Inc. “We encourage involvement in philanthropic activities through our partners, such as the food banks, but we also give employees time off every year to participate in other volunteer activities that are meaningful to them.”
In May, for instance, more than 100 Bayer employees participated in the Food Banks’ After the Bell program in Mississauga, Ontario.
Together, Bayer employees joined a community effort of 1,000 volunteers to assemble meal packs that support children over the summer months. This year, 100,000 nutritious meal packs were assembled, supporting kids in communities across the country.
“Bayer employees truly take pride in supporting a grassroots, community-led program that make a real and meaningful difference in people’s lives,” Alok said.
The fight against hunger continues
As both organizations look ahead, there is acknowledgement that winning the fight against food insecurity will not be easy. Public policy solutions to address the root causes of food insecurity are needed more so than ever – particularly in relation to poverty.
As Chris Hatch puts it, his goal as CEO of Food Banks Canada is to put himself out of a job. He hopes that efforts to reduce food insecurity will result in the decreased need for food banks.
Until that time comes, he will keep working with a network of more than 3,000 food-related organizations, in every province and territory. Of course, Bayer and its employees will be there to help.
“Food Banks Canada is a remarkable organization. They make a real difference in people’s lives every single day,” Alok added. “We share their passion – and we are proud to support their efforts to tackle food insecurity here in Canada.”