Central Food Network shares successes with Highlands East council

By Chris Drost

Tina Jackson, executive director with the Central Food Network (CFN), thanked council for its support during a presentation at a regular council meeting on July 12.
“We would not be here without the support of this council and the County of Haliburton,” Jackson said. She explained that this support was instrumental to them getting the Ontario Trillium Foundation funding for the Highlands East Food Hub. The Hub opened in 2015 and serves to store food for clients and partners of the food bank and acts as a regional food hub for the eastern part of Haliburton County and shares food donations with food banks and programs in surrounding areas, including Hastings County.
Jackson, who started with a short history for CFN, said the network was initially formed by bringing together the grassroots community programs, the Cardiff Community Food Bank and the Wilberforce Food Bank. It was joined by Heat Bank Haliburton County and Highlands East Community Cooks program in 2016. The organization was incorporated in 2015 and received charitable status in 2019.
“You assisted with space. You assisted in accessing grants for the Heat Bank. You served on the board, including Councillor Cam McKenzie who helps run the Cardiff Food Bank.
“We have adapted to new needs,” added Jackson.

Board chair elaborates on priorities
CFN board chair, Nancy Wright-Laking, talked about current priorities of the CFN.
“We have gone through a lot of change,” she said.
They are half-way through their strategic plan, a plan that focuses on communication, internal structure, fund development and effective service delivery.
Wright-Laking explained that a lot of people didn’t know what the CFN offers. This is why there has been a focus on communication. In terms of internal structure, “we now have a full-time executive director, Tina Jackson, and we are so lucky to have her.”
They have also added a position for a client service and volunteer coordinator.
“We don’t have any special government funding that we can rely on yearly. We are looking at how we can continue to provide the services,” Wright-Laking said.
Service delivery is important to the organization.
“We want to deliver the best bang for the buck,” she said.
Past year efforts
Wright-Laking told council that the past year has seen a focus on organizational changes and strategic focus. They have developed more than 100 pages of policies. They restructured, including the hiring of a full-time executive director and a part-time employee. The board has moved from being hands-on, to a governance model.
“It seems to be working well,” she said.
Work is also continuing with funding. In April, there was a facilitated fund development strategic planning meeting in the community centre in Highland Grove.
There are four new community representatives on the board, two from Highlands East and two from Algonquin Highlands.
“It is nice to have members from other municipalities as it brings a lot of talent,” Wright-Laking said. They currently have a chartered accountant, human resources specialist, retired not-for-profit director, a real estate agent and herself, a retired municipal administrator.
As for volunteers, Wright-Laking said, “They are fabulous and many.”
She acknowledged the efforts of Pam McKenzie, who helps at the Cardiff Food Bank and Ken Mott, the manager at the Food Hub, who also works with the Heat Bank.