LONDON, ONT. -- Like many events this year, the United Way 3M Harvest Lunch has been forced to transform into a virtual event.

Pre-shoots for a portion of the video component of the event took place Friday. The week-long virtual event will differ greatly from years past, which traditionally saw more than 2,000 people at Budweiser Gardens.

“We’re asking people to show their local love and buy lunch for somebody in our community in need,” says United Way of Elgin Middlesex CEO Kelly Ziegner.

According to Ziegner, the pandemic has been a double-edged blade for fundraising, with people’s financial situations not what they were a year ago, and an increase of those families that are in need.

“We know the South West London Resource Centre has had a 10-fold increase in families visiting their food hamper every month. It used to be a hundred families a month, now it’s 1,000 families a month.”

The task for McComick General Manager Trevor Squires, who is chair of this year’s lunch, is to replicate the success of the past in a virtual platform.

“To turn things into virtual events that can be equally successful as they were live - which is what we are seeing with this event - which has been just a wonderful experience.

Buying a ticket to the event will help towards providing 2,000 meals for those in need in the community.

Penny Wise, 3M Canada president, says the lessons learned from this year’s virtual component will benefit community activism in the future.

“I think it’s a very successful opportunity and as we move forward and we move out of the pandemic I think there will be some great opportunities that continue in terms of virtual engagement.”

The hosts of the virtual event will be Dave and Rachel from Pure Country 93.

The event will run between September 21 and 25. You can buy tickets by visiting the United Way website.