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Harvest Hands: Ending Hunger - Nourishing Hope
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By Marilynn Vanderstaay

To everything turn, turn, turn
There is a season turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose
Under heaven
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

"Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)", is a song written by Pete Seeger in the late 1950s and first recorded in 1959. The lyrics – except for the title, which is repeated throughout the song, and the final two lines – consist of the first eight verses of the third chapter of the biblical Book of Ecclesiastes.

For Jim and Jacintha Collins, founders and directors of Harvest Hands, the non-profit food distribution ministry, the onset of May is the beginning of a new season of planting and reaping not only for the farmers but for the recipients of the surplus fruits and vegetables donated by the non-profit food bank. In just a few months farmers from across southwestern Ontario who provide surplus fruits and vegetables to Harvest Hands will be harvesting hopefully bounty crops.

When the Collins learned that 6.8 per cent of those using food banks in Canada are seniors and that 18.3 per cent of those using food banks are from single parent households, while 50 per cent of all food produced in Canada is wasted or lost to landfills, they realized they had to do something. Jim is a businessman who founded Harvest Hands to salvage thousands of dollars of surplus food to help families and agencies with safe and nutritious meals for a hand-up to a healthier future.

They started making connections with growers in southwestern Ontario who deal annually with a surplus of fruits and vegetables that do not get sold to grocers or markets.

They also met with grocery retailers … bakers, grocers, big box stores and more… who also deal with food surplus they are not allowed by law to give away to individuals and go first into garbage dumpsters and ultimately into land fill sites. Collins built a network of 80 community agencies to receive the food. Located in 12 counties in southwestern Ontario, they include food banks, pantries, soup kitchens, missions, emergency shelters, residences, seniors’ residences, community housing and other programs.

Through those organizations Harvest Hands provides food to feed over 24,000 families per year. “We are motivated to demonstrate God’s love through acts of kindness and are committed to meeting the needs of the most vulnerable in our region,” says Jim.

Suppliers contact the warehouse when they have a surplus. Volunteers pick up at the supplier’s warehouse and bring all the food back to the warehouse for sorting and quality control. Harvest Hands then delivers the food to the agencies.

The Collins found much of their start up support in the family of the Harvest Hands Church they meet with for Friday evening services. Harvest Hands the food rescuing ministry is the outreach result of its connection with Harvest Outreach International.

Founded in 2008, Harvest Outreach International is a Regional Apostolic Hub for teaching, training and equipping people to serve in His Kingdom.

Because all food at Harvest Hands is donated, it allows them to spend their dollars elsewhere. With a staff of under five, none of it would be possible without the help and dedication of their volunteers who graciously give their time to commit to driving or working in the warehouse

If you live in the St. Thomas / Elgin County region, Harvest Hands would love to hear from you. It needs drivers, call handlers, food sorters and volunteers for a variety of tasks. You can volunteer one day per week or one day per month. Whatever meets your schedule.

While the food and the labour to handle thousands of pounds of food is donated, Harvest Hands needs financial support to cover the costs of warehousing, transportation and a variety of other needs.

The cost of operation for ministry remains very low with over 90 per cent of every dollar donated going to help agencies and families who need help.

Harvest Hands work is made possible entirely by donations. It does not receive government support. All gifts are tax receipted as allowed by CRA regulations.

Every dollar donated helps Harvest Hands provide nutritious meals to families in need. Monthly support will make a difference monthly in hundreds of families’ lives. $25 per month will provide 75 nutritious meals per month $50 per month will provide 150 Meals nutritious meals per month. $100 per month will provide 300 Meals nutritious meals per month Sponsorship can make a difference in a family’s life by providing fresh food and resources, to give people in need a head up to a better tomorrow. To give them not a handout but a hand up.

For those who are interested in donating tangibly, Harvest Hands has a bucket list of necessary-to-function needs.

Big ticket items
  • Commercial walk-in cooler
  • Commercial walk-in freezer
  • Weigh scale (up to 500 lbs)
  • Commercial racking
Individual items
  • Egg cartons
  • Pre-packaged snacks – fruit cups, chips, cookies, apple sauce, pudding

Harvest Hands is also seeking to expand its reach of giving and is open to partnering with agencies to receive and businesses and corporate sponsors to make a difference in lives.

In the process of eliminating hunger for those most vulnerable, the team at Harvest Hands’ vision is to seek practical means to equip individuals and families with skills for independent living. This includes training on education and employment, financial management and other aspects of healthy living.

More statistics
Nearly 15% of elderly single individuals live in poverty. Nearly 2 million seniors receive the Guaranteed Income Supplement and live on about $17,000 per year. However, the most basic standard of living in Canada is calculated at $18,000 per year for a single person.

From 2001 to 2016, the percentage of children aged 0 to 14 living with one parent rose from 17.8% to 19.2%. In 2016, 81.3% of children aged 0 to 14 in lone‑parent families were living with their mother, and 18.7% were living with their father

“One of the greatest feelings in the world is knowing that we have made a difference in the lives of so many people,” says Collins.

For more information about what Harvest Hands ministry does go to

To get involved or to donate contact Jim and Jacintha at or phone 519-281-0089

About the author; Marilynn Vanderstaay
Marilynn is a deep-rooted Christian whose life as a Believer since she was just three is intertwined with everything she puts her hands to professionally and personally.

A community investment specialist, she is a journalist and columnist who writes for community, local and national publications celebrating life and successes, yet when necessary, exposing the not so nice. Her columns and e-zines are read and enjoyed.

She is a soft skills trainer/inspirational speaker. A fabric artisan whose works hang in a gallery in Old Montreal and are published in a coffee table book.

And she is an impresario who organizes faith, friends, food, and fun events. And yes, she is a five-time life threatening cancer overcomer, healed by Jesus to declare the illustrious acts of the Lord. Psalm 118:17