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CORE values: NRP springs forward to help Pelham Cares

Police service campaign to help food banks across Niagara
Pelham Cares board secretary Lori Grande, second from right, was joined by members of the Niagara Regional Police for the NRP’s Spring Forward Food Drive at Food Basics’ Fonthill location on Hwy. 20. From left are Auxiliary Officer Lorenzo Joyner, Const. Darryl Landry, Auxiliary Officer Lucas D’Amico, and Const. Jason McCarthy.

Jason McCarthy first found himself face-to-face with hunger in the community when he was a school resource officer for the Niagara Regional Police. Over 15 years, he saw the need firsthand as he would often interact with students who were not getting enough to eat at home. He decided that he wanted to do something.

While no longer working in Niagara’s schools, McCarty spearheaded the creation of the NRP’s Spring Forward Food Drive. The campaign – now in its fourth year – kicked off Monday at grocery stores in Pelham (Food Basics), Port Colborne (Sobeys) and Fort Erie (No Frills). Over the course of four days, members of the police service’s Community Oriented Response and Engagement (CORE) Unit will be at supermarkets across Niagara collecting donations for the 10 food banks that are members of Feed Niagara.

In Pelham, that means donations were being collected Monday for Pelham Cares.

“As a police officer, I wanted to give back to the community,” McCarthy said, as he and other members of the police service collected donations. “I wanted to do something for families.”

His superiors at the NRP embraced the idea and now the campaign has grown to include a partnership with 13 grocery stores across the region. Donations collected in each municipality stay in the municipality, meaning all local food, cash and gift card donations will go to help restock the shelves at Pelham Cares.

Lori Grande, a member of the board of directors for the agency, said the donations are welcomed, especially at this time of the year.

“The majority of our donations come in October, November and December,” Grande said. “By January, they drop off a cliff.”

And the need is increasing. Grande estimated that Pelham Cares is helping more than 60 families per month on average.

Complicating matters, rising food prices are affecting the number of donations as donors themselves facing higher costs for their own food needs.

“Some staples —canned meats like tuna and salmon — are not coming in as much,” Grande said. “Tea and coffee are something we used to receive a lot of. People wouldn’t hesitate to pay $2.99 for peanut butter. Now it’s $5.99.”

McCarthy, meanwhile, said people are still willing to help.

“The majority of people want continue to give back to the community,” he said.

He sees the drive as a way for the officers to meet with members of the public in a community setting and show that they are people first and foremost, just like when he was working with students in school.

“When I was a resource officer, I would tell the kids (being a police officer) is not who I am, it’s what I do.”

In its first three years, 51,044 lbs. in food and $35,113 in cash/gift cards donations have been collected and shared with food banks across Niagara.

Pelham Cares, meanwhile, offers other services to its clients besides its food bank, including transportation to medical appointments, a personal hygiene products bank, sponsorship for youth to take part in sports, recreational and educational activities, among other things.

More information is available at


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Richard Hutton

About the Author: Richard Hutton

Richard Hutton is a veteran Niagara journalist, telling the stories of the people, places and politics from across the region
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