Airdrie Food Bank (AFB) executive director Lori McRitchie is one of several frontline workers whose face will adorn cereal boxes as part of a campaign by General Mills Canada.
With the postponement of the 2020 Summer Olympics, the company is re-imagining its Olympic Cheer campaign, which typically promotes Canadian athletes on Cheerios boxes in the lead-up to the Olympics. This year, the campaign is going to recognize the efforts of frontline workers at five Canadian food banks.
“They came up with the idea of highlighting food bank folks and partnering them with the five Olympic athletes they had chosen [for the Olympic Cheer campaign],” McRitchie said.
- INTERACTIVE MAP: See the latest COVID-19 statistics across Canada by province/territory on our interactive map.
McRitchie, who has been AFB’s executive director since 2006, said the opportunity to appear on a box arose after Food Banks Canada recommended AFB as one of the five food banks deserving of recognition.
“When they called me to talk about it, they talked about wanting to recognize our food bank and our team, McRitchie said. “I was very much on board with the idea. It ended up being a little more personal than that, but it really was about our team, our staff, our volunteers, our community and just how those that care for us and the people who live here take care of each other.”
While the cereal boxes with McRitchie’s photo will not be available in grocery stores, she said the limited-edition boxes will be viewable online. General Mills will also send some to AFB to keep as a memento.
“This honour belongs to our whole community, from the staff to the volunteers to everyone who makes a donation or drops something in the box,” McRitchie said. “We’re all caring for each other. We’re all frontline, we’re all heroes, we’re all doing our part and I just thank the community for doing all they do to support one another.”
As part of the campaign – known as the ‘Cheer For The Food Banks Frontline’ – five Canadian Olympians will promote the food bank employees on social media and TV commercials.
AFB is partnered with swimmer Penny Oleksiak, who won four medals at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro at the age of 16.
“I actually got to meet her online, and we got to know each other a little bit," McRitchie said. “She’s championing us, and you can be sure we will be her biggest fans when the Olympics do happen."
In addition to the cereal box campaign, General Mills is donating $500,000 in cash and $600,000 worth of its food products to Food Banks Canada.
With thousands of Airdronians laid off in March and April, AFB has experienced a surge in demand since the COVID-19 pandemic began, McRitchie said. The increased need to support people in the community has remained constant.
“We are being well-supported by our community, so we are still able to provide food support," she said. "We haven’t had to lessen the amount that goes into our hampers [and] we’ve been able to meet all the demands."
She added the food bank has implemented new measures and made several adjustments to ensure staff members and clients adhere to social-distancing mandates, such as setting up a drive-through system in the parking lot for hamper pick-ups.
“We’re in this for the long run, and we’ll be here, able to provide support, for as long as the community supports us," she said. "We’ve been very blessed so far.”