Archive for August, 2010

Sometimes you can have four legs and be food insecure

August 31, 2010

Many people are surprised that we distribute dog and cat food.  Pets are important members of the family too, providing comfort and companionship to many.  From time to time we get requests for different types of pet food (bird seed, Gerbil food etc.) but mostly it is dogs and cats that people are looking for help with.

Ninety nine times out of a hundred, the people looking for the dog or cat food are also looking for food for themselves and are both surprised and relieved that we can offer them food for their pets.  Thanks to the Food Bank of Waterloo Region we are able to receive most of what we need via their industry contacts and links to the provincial and national food distribution networks.  With a generous amount of help from our volunteers we bag it up for distribution to some of the many people who visit us each day.

Last week we noticed a newcomer to the program lurking around in the parking lot and nibbling away at the odd scrap of lettuce that had fallen from someone’s hamper.  When we approached, they ran away and hid.  Today, they were hiding in our garbage compound and with a little work from Raymond we managed to give them a hand.

Is this your pet?

Someones domestic rabbit, it seems, has escaped!  After unsuccessfully attempting to give it a scrap of carrot, we drove it up the street to the KW Humane Society where it will hopefully be reunited with its owner, or at least, find a new home.

Farewell Food Hampers

August 27, 2010

Although I certainly haven’t been here as long as others who are saying goodbye (Michelle!), I still must express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to all the inspiring volunteers, staff, and patrons who have shared their lives and knowledge with me.  You have all shaped me to be a more passionate and informed individual, with a renewed drive to continue my university studies in poverty and development.

This summer has been especially important to me because, as someone born and raised in KW, I was painfully unaware of the persistent food insecurity that faces so many of my neighbours and community members. My four years studying International Studies at Laurier oriented my concerns toward the outside world; meanwhile, people from my school, my church, and my street, needed help surviving through their next week. Each day here has been both shocking and rewarding, especially the days when I stood across the counter from fellow students or patrons my own age. Their stories about financial or personal struggles will stay with me for the rest of my life, reminding me not only to constantly appreciate what I have but to share it with others.

Most importantly, my time here has drastically challenged my understanding of food banks and food banks users in the Western World. Programs such as the Emergency Food Hamper Program are not simply buildings filled with “free” food, but crucial resource re-distribution hubs, social havens for volunteers and struggling individuals, identifiers of gaps in social programs, and overall evaluators of community health and well-being. As long as I live I will continue to support the efforts of such crucial contributors to my community’s welfare.

I’m saying good bye to EFHP, but I’m not saying good-bye to understanding and working with KW food insecurity. Thank you all again for making this a life-altering summer!

The end is just the beginning

August 27, 2010

So my ten-week contract at the Emergency Food Hamper Program expires today and, technically, I am supposed to write a “farewell article”. But I don’t see this as a farewell, but rather, I see the end as just the beginning.

First and foremost, I never liked goodbyes. I think the word has been misused by so many people. We shouldn’t say “goodbye” to anybody unless it’s on the day that we leave this world, because chances are, with modern technology, you are likely to see the other person again sometime in life. Thus, I prefer to say “see you all later” to everyone who works at the hamper program.

The past 10 weeks working at EFHP has been excitement, fulfillment, and a incredible learning process. I want to thank all of the staff members and volunteers from the bottom of my heart. I want to thank Matt C., Michele, Melissa, Raymond, Matt G., Nadir, Anton, Salvador, Allison and Lianna for all your help, friendship, work ethics, and warm personalities. (more…)

Food Bank Users and “Abusers”: 2010 Summer Survey Challenges Patron Stereotypes

August 27, 2010

Photo courtesy of Richard Dingwall

Lucas and I have spent much of the past two months at EFHP sitting down with patrons to complete our annual summer survey. We were able to conduct 120 interviews – about 13 more than last year – which will be compiled into a report in the coming months. When first assigned this task, I was worried that weeks and weeks of asking questions such as “why do you not always have enough to eat”?, would begin to wear down on my optimism and faith in my community. Instead, I came out of this project enlightened about the many strong, proactive and hopeful spirits I connected with this summer.


Back to school…

August 27, 2010

Well, the summer has come and gone here at food hampers.  We know the summer is over when our summer placements are complete and our annual volunteer appreciation dinner approaches.

Thanks to our friends at Bethany Evangelical Missionary Church for hosting the party again this year.  Allison has been working hard at getting an excellent range of raffle prizes from local businesses and supporters and our freezers are full of tasty BBQ treats.  The date is set for next Wednesday starting at 5:30pm.  There is still time to RSVP!

Today is the last day for Lucas and Lianna who are returning to school. Look for their farewell posts soon.  Additionally, as posted earlier this week Michelle is taking a leave of absence to attend school.  We wish them all well and hope to see them again very soon.

Usually, we take a group photo when we have to say goodbye.  Thanks to a unique donation yesterday and Michelle’s photo skills we did it a little differently this time. Voila!

After working together for so long there starts to be a bit of a family resemblance

Where did all the jobs go?

August 27, 2010

After five weeks, 120 surveys, countless conversations with patrons, and many, many, photocopies, Lianna and I finished the patron survey for the summer of 2010. It seems to be a victory for both of us at the first glance, but we’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg. What comes now is the daunting task of synthesizing all the data and information collected through the surveys, covering a wide variety of issues such as job security, government pensions, education, service quality at the food hamper program, and some household information.

In the beginning, I was struggling to come up with a specific topic to pull out of the survey and focus on for a blog post while reading through all the results. After an hour of pen-biting and bird-watching at my desk, I went to our program supervisor, Matt, for some advice, who also happens to be a master at MS Excel. With help from him, I realized that the issues of education and employment go hand in hand with one another, and thus, I’ve decided to use this opportunity to present and discuss some interesting results we found from the surveys concerning patrons’ education and their employment status. (more…)

Chandler-Mowat Community Centre: Unity in Diversity

August 26, 2010

On Thursday August 5, Lianna and I visited the last community centre, Chandler-Mowat, to complete our four-part series along with, Sunnydale of Waterloo, Courtland-Shelley and Kingsdale of Kitchener. When our program supervisor first introduced us to this assignment, he pitched it as “a process to profile four community centres operated by House of Friendship”. Neither one of us had any idea what it meant exactly to profile the community centres. However, by the end of our visit to Chandler-Mowat, the 20-year-old community centre, it is safe to say that all four locations share one thing in common: food is being used as a means to build meaningful relationships and strong communities. (more…)

See you later…

August 25, 2010


This summer has really moved along quickly, and it’s not really registering that the new adventure that I am about to embark on is almost here.  Eeeek!  With my work life winding down,  I’m feeling  mixed about my departure…You see, my coworkers and volunteers have been my work family for over 2.5 years. My daily rituals will no longer be familiar ground. I won’t be asked if I am “okie dokie”;  there won’t be the unspoken race to answer the phone on the first ring among us intake workers, (I never seem to win), and i won’t be calling out “hamper-rama” to the hamper packers.

My time as an intake worker has provided me with continuous learning, it has given me many skills that I can tuck in my pocket and bring along with me to school. Whether learning about various  eating habits from different cultures, to working daily with the many faces of our community who deal with the never-ending cycle of food insecurity.  I value each experience I’ve had, since it has brought me to where I am today.

I am grateful to everyone I’ve encountered at Food Hampers… for welcoming me with open arms, and for extending their friendship along the way.  I’m not really saying good-bye, it’s more of a see you later…

Volunteer Spotlight – Daniel Kramer

August 16, 2010

Daniel is someone that takes the time to get to know the other volunteers and patrons. When he comes in to volunteer once a week, his enthusiam and willingness to help others never seems to waiver, which is awesome! Not to mention that he’s fun to work with. Daniel is a long time member of the community, and he has been involved in different capacities with House of Friendship over the years. (more…)

Visiting Kingsdale Community Centre: The Benefits of Traffic Jams

August 11, 2010

Following our visits to the Sunnydale and Courtland-Shelley community centres, EFHP sent Lucas and I to discover the role of emergency food distribution at the Kingsdale Community Centre.  We came away with tired feet and many reflections on how food insecurity presents unique challenges to this large, diverse neighbourhood.

First, a bit of context: Kingsdale is a Kitchener community of about 19,000 households, many of them made up of low-income or new Canadian families. Kingsdale settlement worker Chander Gosain shared that many are from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Latin American countries.  Our tour through the Kingsdale Community Centre, run jointly between the Kingsdale Neighbourhood Association (KNA), House of Friendship, and the City of Kitchener, reveals rooms for programs such as sewing circles, settlement assistance, outreach, dance clubs, piano and guitar lessons, and after school clubs.

Many of these households benefit from a little extra food assistance during the week, a seemingly small undertaking that calls for dozens of volunteers and meticulous organization. Last year the program helped approximately 2500 individuals. Taking on this challenge is KNA President Janet Lilley, who shares that between 80-100 households are helped each week by the deliveries of excess produce from EFHP and non-perishables and frozen foods from the food bank.

When Janet chuckled at Lucas’ sandals, we knew that we wouldn’t be just passive observers. After a trip back to EFHP for Lucas’s steel-toed boots, we were ready for, as regular volunteer Margaret put it, “A real treat.”  We first piled the newly-delivered prickly pears, corn, zucchinis, bananas, and lettuce high around the indoor distribution tables, and soon patrons were received at the mini-intake desk in the lobby. What followed was an hour and a half of organized chaos. (more…)