5 Questions With … The Peter Gilgan Foundation

by | Feb 2, 2022 | Community, Hunger Relief

The Peter Gilgan Foundation helps those that help others. Their impressive mission is “To improve the lives of children and families by empowering charities that help the world transition to a more healthy, prosperous, and sustainable future.” They envision a sustainable future—a world without poverty and with ever-improving healthcare for all. Second Harvest is proud to be a partner in the foundation’s quest to support children, youth, and families by supplying nutritious food to those who need it most.

We had the pleasure of speaking with Stephanie Trussler, Program Officer & Board Member, and asked her a few questions to better understand The Peter Gilgan Foundation and the goals in their partnership with Second Harvest. Here is our enlightening interview with her.

Q1: Tell us about the Peter Gilgan Foundation. Why do you do the work you do?

The Peter Gilgan Foundation is a private family foundation. We aim to support charitable organizations as they build a more healthy, prosperous, and sustainable future. We fund charities in three main areas: Children, Youth, and Families with a focus on education, health and wellness, and economic opportunity; Environment and Sustainability with a focus on low emission and renewable energy solutions, education and public awareness, green development and community engagement; and International Development with a focus on maternal and child health, and education and economic opportunity for women and girls. 

We do the work we do because we believe that everyone deserves opportunities. We want to help provide people with the chance to fulfill their potential and live healthy, productive, rewarding lives in a sustainable world. We believe that giving back to the community is a responsibility and it is our absolute privilege to work with the amazing organizations that we have partnerships with.

Q2: Did the Peter Gilgan Foundation’s giving change in response to the global pandemic?

When the pandemic hit, it was hard to know what to do. All we knew is that we wanted to help. So, we put our regular grant-making on hold and initiated a three-part response. We took a react and research, relief, and rebuild approach. In the early days of Covid-19, we supported testing equipment through St. Michael’s Hospital because at that time testing was sparse and deemed essential to understanding more about the virus, where it was, how it was spreading etc.

Our second phase focused on relief, where we supported a series of organizations addressing food insecurity, Second Harvest being one of them. The third part of our response was to help rebuild, where we supported numerous grassroots organizations in the hopes that our support would help keep them afloat during those challenging times and/or enable them a bit more flexibility to adapt their programming as necessary.

We have since resumed our regular grant-making and are undergoing a deep analysis of how we want to move forward as a foundation. Some lessons learned from the pandemic that have impacted the Foundation’s giving are to be more flexible in how organizations spend grants. While there needs to be accountability, transparency, and a desire remains to measure outcomes, we have also realized that situations are unpredictable. Those working on the front lines of an organization are much more in tune with what the needs are, and sometimes adjustments need to be made. We always encourage open communication with the grantees we support so that each grant may be maximized in usefulness. 

Unfortunately, the pandemic also disproportionately affected youth, women, and people of colour. We are doubling our efforts to support organizations that not only support these groups but are also led by them.

Q3: How has supporting Second Harvest impacted your team and your greater community?

It has been extremely fulfilling supporting Second Harvest. Supporting the health of children, youth, and families as well as fighting climate change are key elements of the Peter Gilgan Foundation’s mandate and partnering with organizations that are simultaneously doing both is so meaningful. Second Harvest is a leader in the space and provides leadership and a network to so many other social service agencies.

Second Harvest has a massive impact on the community as they directly impact all the individuals and families who receive nutritious food, allowing farmers, manufacturers, distributors, retailers, wholesalers, and hotels with a trusted place to turn with excess food and divert so much waste from landfills. When there are so many people experiencing food insecurity, it is such a lost opportunity for excess food to go to waste. Second Harvest has an intricate network where so many important issues are addressed and people and the environment benefit tremendously.

Q4. What does “No Waste. No Hunger” mean to the Peter Gilgan Foundation?

To the Peter Gilgan Foundation “No Waste. No Hunger” is one of the ultimate goals. It is our vision to see every person live free from poverty, and have access to all their educational, health, and economic needs. We also want to see people living in a sustainable world. Second Harvest’s mission of “No Waste. No Hunger” benefits everyone, as more people are eating nutritiously, health outcomes improve, and the environment is spared harmful effects. It is a win-win for everyone. 

Q5. If you could say one thing to people and organizations considering supporting Second Harvest, what would it be?

Second Harvest is best in class. Besides the moral and ethical motivations to support Second Harvest and the work they do, there is also so much logic to it. When there is food that will literally be thrown out, only to create GHG emissions and increase landfills, further damaging our environment, why not get it to people who need it and benefit so greatly from it? The impact of Second Harvest is so profound as people’s health and lives will be improved from this nutritious food. 

Thank you, Stephanie Trussler and the Peter Gilgan Foundation for speaking with us!
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