Airdrie Food Bank executive director recognized as “frontline hero”

Story by Stacie Gaetz


Photos by General Mills

If you are a fan of cereal, there is a chance that you have seen athletic heroes grace the box for years, but did you ever think you might see a hard-working member of your community on the front of your breakfast?

Lori McRitchie, the executive director of the Airdrie Food Bank, will be featured on the front of a box of limited-edition Cheerios as part of the Cheer the Food Banks Frontline initiative.

In light of the COVID-19 crisis, Cheerios and its Canadian Olympic athlete partners are shifting the cheers that were originally destined for the athletes onto Canada’s frontline food bank heroes.

Cheerios’ parent company General Mills will also donate $500,000 cash and $600,000 worth of food product to Food Banks Canada.

“We are pivoting our original plan from helping Canadians to cheer on our Olympic athletes, to those same Olympic athletes cheering on Canadians who are pushing themselves to help their communities in this time of tremendous need,” said Fawad Farrukh, business unit director of cereal at General Mills Canada.

“These are the real heroes, and we’re proud to be able to help them out by raising awareness through our new ads, and by celebrating their spirit with our athlete partners.”

McRitchie says does not see herself as a hero and it is the community that has come together to support each other in these difficult times that should be commended.

“Food banks just facilitate the good will of the community,” she said.

“The heroes are the community members: the volunteers who pack hampers, the delivery drivers, the shoppers who buy a little extra and drop it off in the bin at the grocery store, and the online donors who have lost their own jobs but want to give a little something because they know they are better off than someone else.”

McRitchie said that demand for the local food bank has risen by 50 per cent in the first quarter of 2020, due at least in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, and she expects the need to increase throughout the summer.

“We are in this for the marathon,” she said. “This is not a sprint and there is no finish line in sight anytime soon.”

She added that the money donated to Food Banks Canada from General Mills and a recent designation of food banks as an essential service for the first time in history will help to meet the need.

Under the Cheer the Food Banks Frontline initiative, Cheerios will repurpose its planned Olympic broadcast ad time to focus on the inspiring employees and volunteers who are keeping Canada’s food banks in operation. An animated spot that personifies the spirit of the hard-working helpers started airing the week of May 4.

At the same time, a social media series of five videos starring Team Canada Olympic athletes will shift the spotlight to specific representative food bank workers as the true heroes of this time. Participating athletes are Andre De Grasse (athletics), Penny Oleksiak (swimming), Rosie MacLennan (gymnastics), Matt Berger (skateboarding) and Jennifer Abel (diving).

For more information on the Airdrie Food Bank and their new model of operations during the pandemic, visit their website here.