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Walmart food bank campaign nears the finish line

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The campaign is drawing to a close, but the benefits will be wide-reaching.

Walmart Fort Frances is nearing the end of its annual 'Fight Hunger, Spark Change' campaign which looks to support local food banks through collecting donations. The program has been running since 2011 and is a partnership with Food Banks Canada.

Local Salvation Army corps officer Arthur Heathcote explained that the program has long benefitted the Salvation Army and people in Fort Frances.

“'Fight Hunger, Spark Change' is a national campaign that's done in conjunction with Food Banks Canada and Walmart themselves,” Heathcote said.

“Any of the donations that are taken at the tills come directly to the food bank here in Fort Frances.”

The annual campaign started in 2011. A portion of every purchase of select products made in store and online is donated towards Food Banks Canada, up to a maximum of $1.35-million. Customers can donate online or in person at the cash register. Funds donated at the register will be matched by Walmart Canada and will stay local, in this case benefitting the Salvation Army in Fort Frances directly.

“There are also gift bags that they do, either gift bags of groceries or gift bags of toiletries, that you can take to a cashier, and all of those gift bags come to us as well,” Heathcote explained.

“Everything raised here stays here, and it goes to help the food bank to make sure that children, women, men are fed throughout the year.”

In addition to monetary donations, members of the public can also drop off donations of non-perishable food items to Walmart as well via a donation bin at the front of the store.

The campaign has also highlighted the generous spirit of the people of Fort Frances and the surrounding area. Heathcote noted that for 2019's campaign, Walmart Fort Frances came out on top.

“Walmart Fort Frances raised the most dollars out of all of the stores throughout Canada last year,” he said.

“I think the important thing is all of the cashiers, as well as the managers there, push the fact that every single dollar raised stays right here in the community, and that means a lot to people.”

As for how the store is standing this year, with less than a day left in the running, Heathcote noted that he doesn't have an exact figure, but heard it could be another banner year.

“Last I heard they were ahead of their goal,” he said.

“At this point in time I can't tell you exactly how much. Last I heard they were running ahead of the game.”

Also unclear is the impact recent COVID-19 containment and prevention measures might have had on the campaign. While the campaign started on Feb. 20 and will end later today on March 18, the potential is there for the stockpiling and hoarding that has been seen in much of the world to affect the bottom line. However, even if efforts stalled in the closing days of the campaign, the benefits can't be denied.

“It means that kids don't go hungry, bottom line,” Heathcote said.

“Parents are really fighting to make decisions, it's 'either paying the rent or feeding the kids' type of deal, so it's the food banks that they turn to. Although they don't want to, sometimes it's just a necessity and like I say, it makes sure the children are fed.”

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