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Gay Lea Foundation announces seven new charitable grants

The Gay Lea Foundation is pleased to announce seven new charitable donations, bringing the total number of grants awarded by Gay Lea Foods’ charitable organization in 2020 to 23.

“A lot has changed in Canada and around the world in recent weeks and although the applications reviewed by our Foundation board this April were submitted before COVID-19 took its hold on the world, the need they represent still exists – if not even more so,” says newly elected Foundation Chair, Janet Ringelberg, who is a delegate member of Gay Lea Foods Co-operative Ltd.

“We hope these contributions will help them continue their important efforts, particularly in these challenging times.”

The Gay Lea Foundation was created in 2014 to support education, poverty relief, co-operative development and community well-being projects in Canada and around the world. Since its creation, the Foundation has provided more than $1.18 million in funding direct from the co-operative, its employees and its farmer members, to support more than 60 registered Canadian charities doing important work in Canada, Haiti, Central America, Asia and Africa.

Read on to learn about the seven latest projects supported by the Foundation and how Gay Lea Foods, its employees and its farmer members continue to foster growth, cultivate opportunity and provide hope and promise for families around the world.



As part of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) of Ontario, CMHA Waterloo Wellington works to improve lives by providing full-care, community-based services for those with addictions, mental health issues or developmental needs.

Project: Food for Life

Developed by a Registered Dietitian working in CMHA Waterloo Wellington’s Eating Disorder Treatment Program, Food for Life is a unique in-school nutrition program that teaches primary students, teachers and caregivers about food and nutrition in a way that leads to healthy living, both physically and psychologically. Employing an “All Foods Fit” philosophy, the program encouraging participants to enjoy all foods without guilt or questioning, with the goal of preventing dangerous and avoidable eating disorders.

Gay Lea Foundation grant: $25,000 to update the successful five-year-old program, facilitate program delivery during the upcoming 20120/2021 school year, and expand the program beyond Guelph, Ontario and into surrounding communities.



Located in the hamlet of Moira, Centre Hastings People Helping People is a volunteer-run non-profit organization that provides support and services to the working poor, impoverished households, seniors, victims of domestic abuse and others in need across seven largely rural municipalities in Eastern Ontario.

Project: Christmas Sharing Program

The Christmas Sharing Program spreads holiday joy to those in need through four special community initiatives: the delivery of Christmas hampers filled with all the essentials for a holiday dinner and other nutritious meals; store-specific gift cards for struggling families, so that they may purchase Christmas gifts for their children; gift baskets for seniors in local nursing homes, and; holiday meals for volunteers and municipal road crew workers, as a thank you for the work they do.

Gay Lea Foundation grant: $5,000 to fund the purchase of food items, gifts, and gift cards to support 20 impoverished households, 55 children in need and seniors in two local nursing homes.



Founded in 2004, Liberty For Youth is a non-profit, charitable organization in Hamilton, Ontario that focuses on prevention and intervention for at-risk youth aged 12 to 25, including those with disabilities, indigenous people, visible minorities, newcomers to Canada, those with low/no income, LGBTQ+ communities and underserved populations.

Project: Bright Choices Program

The Bright Choices Program is designed to help youth who are struggling and at-risk of dropping out of school, or who have failed to complete their secondary education. The program provides mentorship, tutoring, homework supplies, snacks, access to computers and printers, and other supports to help youth improve their learning skills, get through the challenges they’re having and/or return to high school. Upon completing high school, youth are offered a post-secondary scholarship towards any college/university program of their choosing.

Gay Lea Foundation grant: $5,000 to offset the cost of supplies and expenses for the program.



Open Arms Mission is a volunteer-driven organization that works to help low income people in the Niagara region of Ontario. Beginning as a small food bank in the late 1980’s, the Mission has grown to offer a drop-in centre, food bank, furniture bank, community garden, hot lunch program and other community programming, while also receiving, processing, storing and distributing food to over 25 different food programs in the region.

Project: Purchase of a refrigerated cargo van box

With a large warehouse, central location, active volunteer base and cold storage capacity, Open Arms Mission is uniquely well suited to be a regional food hub in Niagara, capable of increasing the capacity of all food security agencies in the region. Outfitting one of the Mission’s existing cargo vans with a refrigerated cargo van box will allow the organization to safely transport more healthy, perishable food between producers, warehouse storage and food security agencies, keep the food safe and usable for an extended period of time, and divert more food waste from local landfills.

Gay Lea Foundation grant: $9,613 to purchase the refrigerated cargo box, which will be installed by a local mechanic, free of charge, in one of the Mission’s cargo vans.



S.H.A.R.E. Agriculture Foundation works with local partners in impoverished, agriculturally based communities in Central and South America to provide funding, guidance and expertise for small projects that contribute to development and sustainability by increasing the capacity of community members to improve their own lives through their own efforts.

Project: Promoting and strengthening leadership and food production capacities of rural youth in El Salvador

This project will see S.H.A.R.E. partner with ANTA, the National Association of Farm Workers in El Salvador, to implement Farmer Field School training and ongoing extension support for the rural youth of ANTA’s 25,000 impoverished small farm and fisher members and 85 co-operatives. Programming will focus on the establishment of sustainable ecological food production enterprises, advocacy for small-scale farmers, co operative methodology, farm finances, credit management, marketing and leadership.

Gay Lea Foundation grant: $10,323 to purchase seeds, tools, teaching supplies and other program requirements, hire a specialized local agriculture technician and support program administration.



SchoolBOX is a registered Canadian and Nicaraguan charity with the simple mission of ‘making education possible’ for all kids. Founded in 2006, the organization began by providing students in Nicaragua with the school supplies they need to attend school and lift themselves out of poverty and has since evolved to build more than 80 libraries and 110 classrooms supporting tens of thousands of kids each year.

Project: Supplies Program (Nicaragua)

The Supplies Program remains the backbone of SchoolBOX for the simple reason that school supplies empower children to attend school. The program provides students in Nicaragua with supplies for an entire school year (notebooks, pencils, eraser, pencil sharpener, ruler, coloured pencils, and modelling clay), as well as supply packages for teachers. All supplies are purchased locally and packaged and distributed with the help of Nicaraguan staff and volunteers.

Gay Lea Foundation grant: $5,000 to equip 500 students and teachers in Nicaragua with supplies.



Tearfund Canada works with local agencies across Africa and Asia to help meet the needs of people living in poverty through emergency assistance (including food, shelter, medicines and other necessities), integrated development programs, agricultural training, primary health care, and food security programs.

Project: Innovative Market Solutions Project Expansion (Ethiopia)

After working with local partners to introduce conservation agriculture to farmers in Ethiopia, Tearfund Canada has seen these farmers increase their yields by up to 700%, an incredible success that has impacted whole communities, significantly helping to address food insecurity issues. In 2019, the organization launched a successful follow-up project to introduce innovative new crop storage solutions and strategic marketing practices to these farmers, so that they may realize the full benefits of their harvests. The expansion project will extend this program to 500 more farmers in 20 farmer co-op groups in other rural villages of Ethiopia.

Gay Lea Foundation grant: $18,000 to provide low-cost grain storage bags, as well as training and mentoring on strategic marketing practices, business skill development and networking to increase profit margins.


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