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Churches, charities help feed migrant farmers

The Niagara Migrant Farm Workers project of the Anglican Diocese of Niagara feeds between 900-1,000 migrant workers each month with the help of food banks like GBF. On hand for a weekly food pick up on Aug. 13 were (L-R) Fr. Enrique Martinez, project leader Fr. Antonio Illas and GBF food program manager Ala Benish. Marks – Photo

By Tristan Marks

It’s ironic, said Father Antonio Illas, that the people who work so hard to maintain our food security in Niagara would have so little of it for themselves.

The Anglican minister aims to help address this problem through the Migrant Farmworkers Project, a ministry that helps feed between 900-1000 migrant workers on average each month.

Fr. Antonio said that such a large scale project is only possible thanks to hardworking volunteers and partnerships with local food banks like the Grimsby Benevolent Fund (GBF).

“Without GBF, we could not be doing what we are doing,” said the priest.

GBF donates between 400-700 kg of food weekly to support this cause. They have donated close to 8500 kg since April of this year alone.

“We do try to make sure we supply a variety of foods for balanced meals and to let those meals last,” said GBF food bank program manager Ala Benish. “We’re privileged as a food bank that we are able to help out.”

Most of the food is a mix of non-perishable staples, canned vegetables and meats, but Benish said there is also a specific need for traditional Spanish/Latin foods since most of the migrant workers come from Mexico and Central America.

Fr. Antonio said that despite the project’s best efforts, it is only able to serve a fraction of more than 4000 migrant workers who come to the Niagara Region each season.

He explained that the past year has been especially hard for the workers, as new arrivals to Canada have to quarantine for 14 days.

“The less hours they work the less income they earn, and these workers are also sending much of their money to support their families back home,” said Fr. Antonio.

The project’s reach is limited by its volunteer infrastructure at the moment. To volunteer or to support the Migrant Farm Workers project, visit or look up ‘Migrant Farmworkers Project’ on Facebook.

Businesses can also “Adopt a Sunday” by sponsoring a Sunday meal for the workers through the project.

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