New food dryer on its way to Niagara Christian Gleaners from U.S.

dehydrated food Boxes of dehydrated food sit ready to be shipped from the Niagara Christian Gleaners in Smithville, Ontario on June 12, 2020. Jordan Snobelen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

For a little over two years, the Niagara Christian Gleaners have answered a  global cry for food in impoverished countries by shipping out millions  of servings of nutritious, dehydrated vegetables in sea containers. 

By  drying surplus, donated food, like asparagus and eggplant, the food is  able to last and shrinks significantly in size until it’s rehydrated  with water.

Getting  the moisture level down from 90 per cent to 10 per cent requires a  giant dryer running 22 hours per day. In a single year, the dryer  processes two-million pounds of food.

As soon as the Gleaners can fill a container with 1.2 million servings,  the building is emptied out, and the food aid is on its way around the  world. 

But with the global pandemic further ravaging already food-insecure countries, the cry for help has grown even louder. 

“The request for food on our end has gone up exponentially,” said Pete Wierenga, the Gleaners’ general manager.

With their present dryer often at capacity and donated food waiting in queue  with a risk of spoiling, the Gleaners decided the answer was to get  another $300,000 dryer. 

“We  get no government support, there is no other income other than from  people who understand what we do and want to come alongside us,”  Wierenga said. 

Last December, they made an appeal for the cash.

“All we did was present the need, and the response from that was overwhelming,” Wierenga said. 

Within five weeks, a second dryer had become a reality. 

Last week, volunteers donating their labour and materials poured a pad for  the dryer, which will be installed outdoors at the backside of the  plant. 

Next week, the 40-by-eight-foot dryer will be on its way up from Nyle  Systems in the state of Maine, thanks to West Lincoln-based Jonker  Trucking, which again stepped up to cover the round trip and go fetch  the shiny behemoth. 

“Our goal is to have it commissioned and in operation by the end of April,” Wierenga said.

With two dryers running at full capacity, there’s a potential for the Gleaners to process four-millions pound of food per year. 

Next week, a container will be on its way to Haiti and, right after that, another to Eswatini in Africa.