Archive for September, 2010

2 years and counting…counting food that is!

September 28, 2010

I started working here near the end of February 2008 and began my first project a month later: the hamper audit. The main reason I enjoy this project is because it’s fascinating to track each and every item that is distributed in hampers for families of one to four persons when we open and when we close. Tracking all these items helps us have a comprehensive list of what may have been in a hamper on any given day. This helps us identify and track trends in donations and demand, and better understand what we are distributing each day. But creating these lists is only half the project; the other half involves organizing each item in groups to determine how nutritious our hampers are, based on Canada’s Food Guide values.

For any item to be accepted into one of the food groups it has to meet certain nutritional requirements. Though most items are easy to categorize such as a broccoli florets and yogurt, there are more “difficult” foods that require some evaluation. One example of a “difficult food” is crackers, which the Food Bank has been consistently had available for many weeks now. Crackers are a simple snack and are generally acceptable for anyone to eat, but can be high in sodium. This presents a challenge, as the Food Guide encourages food choices to be low in calories, fat, sugar and sodium. As a result I need to read the label to make an educated decision on whether the crackers are a grain serving or an extra since the food guide recommends minimizing sodium in your diet.

Nevertheless I’m not here to give a lesson on nutrition; instead this blog will share some of the 2009 statistics I have collected doing the hamper audit. One thing to note is that these statistics are a result of many wonderful donations, and Raymond’s (our warehouse coordinator) excellent predictions with his quotas. Luckily these factors seem to work well together, as our program has been able to consistently distribute an average of three to five days worth of food in almost all food categories. (more…)

KW Food Budget Challenge

September 23, 2010

I was asked to speak today about local food programs at the kick off of the KW Food Budget Challenge.  You can find a link to their site and associated blogs here.

You may remember and older post (here) about The Stop and their Do the Math challenge. The KW Food Budget Challenge takes its inspiration from this ground breaking effort to draw attention to the plight of food insecure individuals and families.

Instead of relying on a food hamper and meal programs like the participants of the Do the Math challenge, they are living on a limited budget, like that of a person on Ontario Works, and documenting the ensuring struggle to get food and survive for a week on their blogs and other media.  This struggle will include going to meal programs and even getting food hampers (after making a donation to offset the impact to the program).  The final wrap up will be at the Dream Centre.

The participants include some new faces, and some long time supporters of our work. The participants (so far) are  Chatar Ahuja, Brice Balmer, Bill Bean, Mike Farwell, Greg deGroot Maggetti, Sheryl Loeffler, Ashley Schuitemal, Bruce Sweet, Peter Thurley, and Felicia Urbanski. Click on their names to go to their new, and as of now, mostly empty blogs.  In the next week expect a lot of first person reflections on what thousands of people in this region struggle with each week of the year.

Here at the Food Hamper Program, we applaud these people for walking, even for a short while, in solidarity with the countless people who walk through our doors trying to make ends meet.

I’m looking forward to reading about their experiences and hoping that it will get people thinking and talking about why, after almost 30 years of having food banks all across this country, even more people are hungry each day.

A Glimpse at 2009 Food Donations

September 21, 2010

Tracking the weight of food donations is another statistic that our program calculates each day and year, along with other statistics such as the Hunger Count, and how many hampers we do in a single day. In order to keep the records of food donations accurate the staff at our program are required to give this task a significant amount of attention throughout the whole day, as we can’t predict when a donation will arrive. Therefore we are required to stay on our toes because in a typical day our program will receive two or more donations at any point, whether it’s a program driver coming back with something from a local farm or a community member casually stopping by with a box of canned soup. (more…)

Volunteer!

September 17, 2010

September is  a challenging month for us at the Food Hamper Program.  Many of the volunteers we have during the summer go back to school, our summer placements wrap up, and suddenly, large gaps start appearing in our volunteer schedule!

As we’ve pointed out many times in this blog over the last few months, volunteers are the one resource (over 200 people last year) that makes the biggest difference in our daily effort to help share the many generous donations we receive.  They work tirelessly behind the scenes to get the food to us, sort through it, and then, on the front lines to assemble the hampers and deliver the food to the many people who turn to us each day.

So, this is the part where this blog post gets a little more interactive…. because we need your help!

Are you interested in having a positive impact on your community? Each day many of your neighbours can’t put food on their tables and turn to us for help.  We are Kitchener Waterloo’s largest distributor of food to people in need and we are looking for volunteers to help us pack food hampers and sort food donations Monday to Friday.

If you’re new to the blog, you can read here about some of the busier times we’ve had. Or, you can see what you might be putting together for a family here and learn about all the people we served last year here.

Our address is 807 Guelph Street in Kitchener and we are open Monday to Friday between 8:30 and 4:30. We ask for a minimum contribution of 2 hours at least one day a week.

If you can read and write a little English, do basic math and enjoy working with people please give our volunteer coordinator Matt G a call at 519-742-0662 to learn more about our organization and how you can help make a difference in your community.

Or, if you’re in the vicinity of Conestoga Mall in Waterloo this Saturday (Sept 18) you can visit him at the Volunteer Fair organized by the Volunteer Action Centre and introduce yourself to him in person and learn more about how you can help.

What is Ramadan in Islam?

September 15, 2010

Hello, my name is Nadir, I am an intake worker at the food hamper program, and for my first blog post I will talk a little bit about the holy month of Ramadan which has just finished.

Waterloo Region is a growing part of Ontario, and has always been a place where different people from different parts of the world come together, to live, to work and build a better life. These people bring their ideas, cultures and spirituality with them to their new home. We have always had strong Mennonite roots since the early days, but to that have been added different denominations of Christianity, and other religions, including, but not limited to Islam. (more…)

Not your traditional milk – but just as good!

September 14, 2010

Any of the volunteers and staff who have worked at our program over the last two years will likely be able to tell you something about goat’s milk, as it’s been a familiar donation to our program over this period. Because it’s a regular donation for our program, some of our faithful blog readers may also feel familiar with this product since we’ve likely mentioned it in a few earlier blogs. Either way, let’s continue the trend in helping more people become familiar with goat’s milk! (more…)

Employment opportunities

September 9, 2010

There are several employment opportunities open at the House of Friendship, including one position at the Emergency Food Hamper Program.

Check out the jobs section of our website here

The Interim Intake Worker position is a contract to fill in for Michelle’s leave of absence while she goes to school.

As described in the posting it requires work with the public who are coming to us for food assistance.  That involves going through our intake procedure with them, using our custom Microsoft Access based database, packing food hampers, working in the warehouse and playing a supportive role for our volunteers.  There will be room to work on a few related projects, including the blog, depending on the skills and interests of the successful applicant.

We are a very busy program, working with families and individuals who are often  under a great deal of stress.  A background working with people in busy, often chaotic environments, is a real plus.

If you are interested please email or fax me your resume at the address and fax number listed in the posting.

One big thank you!

September 8, 2010

September is here! And as is tradition, we spent the first Wednesday of the month (when the program is closed) preparing for and celebrating at our annual Volunteer Appreciation Party.

Bruce and his wife at the beginning of the party.

As the party continued, more people trickled in.

Francis and his wife hoping to win big.

Everyone enjoying the abundance of food.

Willard and his wife.

This celebration is one way that we thank our volunteers for all the work they do year round to help the thousands of people who come to us for food. We pause, and say a big thank you to all of our volunteers—not just the ones at the party—who contributed approximately 15,000 hours to the program in 2009, and who continue to amaze us with their dedication in 2010.

As usual the BBQ and ensuring celebration was a huge success.  Bethany Evangelical Missionary Church was kind enough to let us use their gymnasium and kitchen for the event for the third year in a row.   In the past we hosted the event at our facilities on Guelph Street  and the parking lot which was a logistical nightmare, so thank you!

Another massive shout-out needs to be given to the businesses in our region that provided donations for the annual volunteer raffle. Almost every volunteer who attended walked away with something.  Everyone has a lot of fun with this event and it would not have been possible without the generosity of the following establishments:
Boston Pizza (the locations at 597 King Street North and 721 Ottawa Street)
Canadian Tire at 1400 Ottawa Street South
The Children’s Museum at 10 King Street West
Crossroads Restaurant
Earthwinds at 42 King Street South
Frederick Brunswick Bowling
The Future Shop at 580 King Street North
Galaxy Cinemas at 550 King Street North
McDonald’s at 55 Northfield Drive
Starbucks at 95 King Street
Ten Thousand Villages at 80 King Street South
Tim Hortons at 197 Frederick Street
Walmart at Fairview Mall

Also thanks to Flourish, the local floral company that kindly contributed (and hand delivered) the beautiful sunflower centerpieces for the tables.  They really brightened the evening.

Finally, thank you to everyone who helped ensure the evening ran smoothly. To all the current and former staff, family and friends, your assistance was much appreciated!

Team BBQ work their magic. Thank you to Eby Village and Charles Village for lending us their equipment!