OTTAWA -- Ottawa's annual Food Aid Day campaign, which donates locally farmed ground beef to the Ottawa Food Bank, has hit a major milestone, even under extraordinary circumstances.

Food Aid Day was started in 2005 by Navan, Ont. farmer Wyatt McWilliams. It is an annual barbeque and rural exhibition, held on the grounds of Ottawa City Hall. McWilliams' goal was to raise money to donate ground beef to the Ottawa Food Bank while supporting locally owned farms who supplied the beef.

This year's festivities were cancelled because of COVID-19, but it did not stop John Bradley from continuing to raise money. 

Bradley, who has been involved with the Food Aid campaign for 15 years, also runs the family-owned JT Bradley's Country Convenience Store in Navan. It's been in his family for more than a century. It's a tradition he doesn't plan to stop and donating to a worthy cause is something he won't stop doing either. 

McWilliams approached Bradley with an idea: sell beef. He contacted local suppliers and set up a freezer. For every pound of ground beef sold, one dollar is donated. 

"We usually contribute every year, whether it's through donations, through providing volunteers, or anything else," says Bradley. "We sell two-pound packages and one-pound packages and burgers. It's just a no-brainer."

The beef is from La Binerie in Plantagenet, Ont. Since the spring, the corner store has raised enough money to push Food Aid to a new milestone. The campaign surpassed 1,000,000 pounds of ground beef donated to the food bank. 

More than 39,000 people use the food bank each month and, as charities struggle to raise money in these times, they're also having to deal with a surge in demand. 

Now more than ever, Bradley sees the need to give and receive support. He's partnered with other local businesses, each helping one another. 

Bradley notes that 2020 has been a pretty rough year for many but a lot of good things have still come out of it, like a stronger sense of community and carrying through on a long-standing tradition, to help when it counts most.