Northwest Winnipeg residents help others in need by distributing food that would otherwise go to waste

Kat and Corey Greer spend half their weekend distributing free food to families in their northwest Winnipeg neighbourhood — something they say they do to help fill a vital need in the community, even though they’re living paycheque to paycheque themselves.

Every Saturday, the couple receives boxes of food at their Weston area home. The food, usually perishables, comes from different grocery stores and organizations that would otherwise have to throw it away — if it weren’t for people like the Greers.

They take a few items for themselves, then spend the day putting together as many food hampers as they can. They post pictures of the hampers on social media, which is how they then connect with people who need the food.

“Within hours [the food is] out the door and people have it in their homes. They can use [it] within the next couple of days,” Kat said.

The loosely knit group of people doing this type of work in Weston calls it “mutual aid” — helping fellow community members by sharing goods or services. While many mutual aid groups popped up during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Greers started their work even before that.

They say produce and meat are the most-needed items in their hampers, and they try to spread out as much food as they can.

The Greers spend their Saturdays putting together food hampers for families in the Weston neighbourhood. (Submitted by Kat Greer)

“At minimum, someone’s going to get bread or potatoes, even if there’s one thing left,” Corey said. “Somebody’s still getting something.”

There’s no doubt for them that the food they distribute is needed in the wider community.

“[We] do it to fill a need because [we] have to,” Corey said.

Looking for solutions as costs rise

One of the places the Greers receive food from is a food rescue charity called the Leftovers Foundation.

Julia Kraemer, the charity’s co-ordinator in Winnipeg, says over the last few years she’s seen more people struggling and in need of the services of the organization, which also operates in Calgary, Edmonton and Fort McMurray, Alta.

“With the rising food cost, people are needing more solutions,” she said.

A man and a woman in red "Leftover Foundation" T-shirts stand in a warehouse space, with pallets and boxes behind them.
Julia Kraemer, right, stands with Cory Rianson, executive director of the Leftovers Foundation. Kraemer says the foundation is seeing increasing demand for food all over the city. (Joanne Roberts/CBC)

Kraemer said mutual aid groups, like the one the Greers are part of, are essential to minimize their food waste.

“When our charity partners are closed for the weekend and we have food that’s aging, it still needs to go somewhere. We know that there’s so many people who are needing that assistance,” Kraemer said. 

“So we lean heavily on grassroots and mutual aid groups.” 

Kraemer said it’s important to support such groups, which typically know best what people in their communities need.

“Nobody knows what they need better than the individual themselves,” she said.

Julian-Caleb Woodford is a single dad who often receives hampers from the Greers. He’s also part of Weston’s mutual aid community.

A man wearing a black face mask and a blue checkered shirt stands in a park.
Julian-Caleb Woodford receives hampers from Kat and Corey Greer. Although he’s a struggling single dad, he’s an active part of the mutual aid community in Weston. (Joanne Roberts/CBC)

Woodford and his son help their neighbours, some of whom are not mobile, by picking up food and delivering it — by foot — across the Weston community.

“Everybody needs to eat,” he said. “I might not be able to contribute a whole lot myself, but I do [what I] can.”

According to Food Matters Manitoba, over 14 per cent of Manitobans experience food insecurity, meaning they don’t have enough money to buy food. It affects one in five children, disproportionately hitting Indigenous and Black households, the non-profit says.

Kat and Corey Greer said they’ll continue to put together hampers for their community as long as food insecurity is a problem — for themselves and for others.

“What matters more is that there’s food for all,” Corey said. 

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