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Ruby to the rescue
Food Rescue founder has dedicated herself to a noble cause, full-time

Heather Lange
Northern News Services
Published Saturday, May 14, 2011

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - Walking into Food Rescue's headquarters, all one can see is boxes of food neatly stacked on the floor, food in coolers and food in stacked milk crates.

NNSL photo/graphic

Ruby Trudel picks out the bruised tomatoes from the good tomatoes in a batch of food donated to Food Rescue, at the organization's location on Old Airport Road, May 11. Trudel started Food Rescue out of her garage in 2008 with her husband Laurin Trudel, and the charitable group now has 24 active volunteers, a larger space, and a heightened ability to serve it's mandate; giving out food to those in need. - Heather Lange/NNSL photo

Prior to June, 2008, this mountain of food used to end up in the landfill until Ruby Trudel and her husband Laurin, stepped in.

In March of that year, Ruby attended a public forum put on by the Yellowknife Homelessness Coalition which aimed to find out more about the homelessness problem in Yellowknife. She talked with Lydia Bardak from the John Howard Society and Gary Hubert of SideDoor and heard a recurring theme of not having enough money to fund their programs.

She didn't think there was any way she could help, despite a strong desire to do so.

"As I was sitting there, it was like God was putting his hand on my shoulder saying you can do something about this," said Ruby.

She realized then, if the organizations could save money on food, it would free up money for the programs. Shortly after she was attending a lunch at the Yellowknife Seniors' Society and was told by Lorne Schollar about the mounds of food he saw at the dump, going completely to waste good food, still edible yet only being eaten by ravens.

Ruby saw an answer, and with the help of the legislative assembly which unanimously passed a bill put forward by Frame Lake MLA Wendy Bisaro absolving businesses of liability for food they donate, Food Rescue was born.

It launched in the Trudels' garage but soon space became insufficient for the donations that came streaming in in, so they approached Martin Knutson, principal of Matrix Helicopter Solutions and Exploration Logistics, who quickly moved Food Rescue into a large all-weather tent.

All the organization's appliances, food and water trucking services, its phone line, kitchen items, and permits, were donated by businesses and municipal services around town.

"We've had tremendous support from the community. Everything you see in the facility is a donation from someone in the community," said Ruby.

BHP recently donated $30,000 to so Food Rescue can hire a driver to deliver the food the first paid position at the volunteer association.

She said receiving so much support from the community gives her the reassurance that she is doing the right thing and on the right path.

Food Rescue donates to 20 local organizations including the Centre for Northern Families, the Salvation Army, John Howard Society, SideDoor, YWCA, Weledeh Catholic School, Mildred Hall School, Yellowknife Food Bank, Aurora Student Food Bank, Stanton Territorial Hospital Auxiliary and the Yellowknife Seniors Society.

She said everyday something happens where an organization calls needing food and is taken care of by the end of the day.

"Dennis Squires, the cook at the Salvation Army phoned up in the morning needing coffee. I told him 'from your lips to God's ear.' He laughed in disbelief and hung up. That afternoon, volunteers walked in the door with a donation that was picked up from Extra Foods a huge amount of coffee! I phoned up Squires and he couldn't believe it. That kind of thing happens over and over," said Ruby.

In 2010, Food Rescue saved 109,000 kg of edible food; an increase of 50,000 kg of food since 2009. The Trudels have some bigger goals in mind as well, like expanding their services and getting a location closer to downtown. Ruby envisions Food Rescue offering food to individuals in need out of their future location on a daily basis.

When asked if she ever gets weary of the work, or wishes she was spending her retirement years vacationing, she responded with a genuine look of shock on her face.

"Are you kidding? Even my 87-year-old mother loves to work at Food Rescue. I got the best job in town. It's hard work, relentless, but you go home, have a good sleep and then you're ready to go again."

Ruby used the last part of her interview with Yellowknifer to thank her team.

"All the volunteers are so wonderful. You never have to phone them, reminding them about their shift at Food Rescue. Without their help and the community's generous donations, we would have never gotten very far," she said.

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