“For me, this was never really a job. Every day was just so exciting and part of being an extension of what I always wanted to do in my life. My passion in life, and my purpose, which I wrote down many years ago, was simply to serve other people, and what a great opportunity I had to do that with the Barrie Food Bank.” – Peter Sundborg
Peter Sundborg, the outgoing executive director of the Barrie Food Bank, recalled when the organization had to changed its fundraising tactics as the pandemic hit last spring, asking for financial assistance instead of food donations.
The community responded by contributing funds in April that totalled the bank’s yearly collections, demonstrating the generosity of the community Sundborg said he was proud to serve.
“It was just so amazing how the community … wrapped around the Barrie Food Bank to help all of us to feed people,” he said during Monday night’s virtual council meeting as he was being recognized for his efforts.
Mayor Jeff Lehman said that due to distancing measures because of COVID-19, council hadn’t presented many awards or recognition items, but that changed Monday when Sundborg was thanked for his many years of service.
“For everybody watching who may not have had the pleasure of meeting this man, he has made an absolutely remarkable impact on our community over his ten years at the helm of the Barrie Food Bank,” said Lehman.
“He will be retiring this week, having started his career at the food bank in 2011. At that time, the food bank was regularly raising 500,000 pounds of food annually … that was indicative of a generous community and a strong organization. Now, food donations have increased to over a million pounds of food a year.”
That, he continued, was “in no small part due to Peter’s relentless advocacy on behalf of not only the organization, but the belief that nobody need go hungry in our community.”
The mayor recalled an occasion “several years ago” when there was a significant increase in the number of people turning to the food bank for assistance, a situation that required the organization to change strategies, and the community reacted because of how Sundborg and his team were able to galvanize support.
He talked about how the food bank was able to increase the range of items being provided, and partnerships struck to get food out to people in need during the pandemic.
“Many of us who may have known a food bank when we were growing up probably think of it as cans and bags of pasta and things like that. It is so much more today, and during the course of the pandemic … there were partnerships with organizations … to deliver frozen meals and pre-prepared meals with the pivot that was needed in terms of ways that people accessed the food bank,” he said.
Lehman also spoke of Sundborg as a warm, generous, and thoughtful person, an example to everybody who tries to support marginalized populations and people who need help.
“You have been an inspiration to me and I know to many others in the community because of your relentless and very fine commitment to the people that need the services of the food bank.”
He got a certificate, a donation from the City in his name to the food bank, and as a gift, the book Beautiful Barrie. He is being succeeded by Sharon Palmer.
Sundborg said he was “flattered and honoured” by the kind words and recognition, saying he did the work to ensure no one in the community went hungry.
“For me, this was never really a job. Every day was just so exciting and part of being an extension of what I always wanted to do in my life. My passion in life, and my purpose, which I wrote down many years ago, was simply to serve other people, and what a great opportunity I had to do that with the Barrie Food Bank.”