Founder says Connect the Dots makes the world a better place

Founder Tim Kelly wanted to make the world a better place and decided that one way to do that was to provide food that would otherwise be wasted and get it to agencies that distribute food to the people who need it

Connect the Dots – Community Harvest strives to salvage food that might otherwise be wasted and get it to the people who need it.

Founder and President Tim Kelly saw a way he could help make the world a better place and decided to launch the project in 2017.

The idea came to him as he watched events unfold in the United States after the election of Donald Trump and saw people give up hope for a better world.

“I told myself I don’t have to accept what’s not, and I wanted to do something to make the world a better place.”

He said he had been aware of the huge amount of food wasted in the community for some time and the need for that food in the community as well. That’s when I contacted a group of like-minded people looking for something they could do and came up with Connect the Dots – Community Harvest.

“We connect the dots between surplus food and the people who need it,” he said. “I know that the number of people in need in our community is large and growing. It is a very difficult situation for many.”

In 2018, the group also considered collecting surplus food from local grocery stores, but was stunned at the resources it would require to do so.

Also at that time, United Way launched Harvest Algoma and Kelly said Connect the Dots decided to remain independent but work with Harvest Algoma as well.

“We are like-minded and our mandates are somewhat overlapping,” he said. “(We will need) full-time employees to handle this scale of operations (required to access surplus food from grocery stores).”

So he worked on having Harvest Algoma loan the Connect the Dots a pickup to use to pick up produce from farmers’ markets, and Harvest Algoma working with chain-level grocery stores to change policies so they can distribute food that might otherwise be lost.

“They’re doing a great job,” Kelly said. “We help when they need it.”

Kelly also had an ulterior motive when he started the project.

“I wanted to inspire people to find something they could do to help make the world a better place,” he said. “Just get them to look around and see what they can do, even if it seems like a small thing. The world needs more of that — from people trying to make it a better place.”

Kelly credits Evolugen, a renewable energy company launched by Brookfield Power, for its support that allows volunteers to focus on fulfilling the group’s mandate rather than raising funds to cover operating costs.

“Evolugen has been a solid sponsor,” Kelly said. “They support our operating expenses every year and we teach them how we do it.”

Coming from a background in computer programming and project management, Kelly was able to use his skills to work on the logistics of getting food from producers to agencies that could distribute it effectively.

Realize that there are community agencies that have the resources and knowledge to distribute food to people who need it but need food to distribute it.

He also saw farmers in the market bringing home unsold produce and wondered what had happened to them.

“People want to buy good fresh food, and what’s left at the end of the day can be composted or fed to livestock, but a lot of it has gone down the drain,” he said.

When the local vendors selling in the markets realized that the food they had brought but did not sell would go to those in need, they began bringing in more.

“Most of the weeks we could have set aside a portion of the crop surplus that was not completely sold,” the owners of Wilding Acres said. “Or, like last weekend, we brought some of last year’s potatoes out of the cold room to sell, knowing that more would go to Connect the Dots and reach people who needed good food and food to eat.”

By the end of 2021, Wilding Acres had donated more than 1,000 pounds of food.

They, like other vendors at both Algoma Farmers’ Market and Mill Market, also donate unclaimed food stocks from community-supported farming programs, ensuring that food is not wasted and that people who need it, get it.

By the time of writing, Connect the Dots has collected 49,795 pounds of food and has delivered 367 shipments of quality, nutritious surplus food from local markets, gardeners and farms to agencies that have the infrastructure to distribute food to the people who need it. Don’t go down the drain.

Since its inception in 2017, more than 1,000 volunteer hours have been contributed to Connect the Dots.

They’re also picking up shows from farmers’ markets for the Grow a Row programme, the brainchild of food bank farm organizers.

This program encourages other farmers, backyard gardeners and people with community gardens to donate surplus produce.

Donate surplus produce to Connect the Dots at Algoma Farmers Market at 1 p.m. on Saturdays, or at Mill Market at 2 p.m. on Saturdays. Connect the Dots will ensure that products reach agencies for distribution to those in need of food.

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