Archive for October, 2010

Intake Process: Identification

October 29, 2010

When I first started my position here as an intake worker it took me a while to adjust. All at once I was booking hampers with patrons and hearing the many different stories that they all had to share – there was a lot of stuff to take in all at once.

Any time we speak with a patron at the front desk or on the phone, the job of an intake staff involves looking for additional ways that we might be able to help, such as referring them to other community resources. But during these conversations we need to remember that we’re here to fulfill a basic need: access to adequate and nutritious food. To do this we are expected to follow the process and questions involved in booking a food hamper. The standard intake questions make the process easier to follow; but originally I found it very easy to get distracted in patrons’ stories and get side tracked from what I was doing during an intake. However now that I’ve been working here for about two and half years I feel like I could recite the questions backwards in my sleep with no mistakes. But there’s more to the intake process than asking people a few questions. (more…)

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Food and Community at Eby Village

October 27, 2010

As an intern for House of Friendship, I have the unique privilege of being a part of multiple House of Friendship programs, not just Emergency Food Hampers. This position affords me a glimpse into many facets of the whole organization, which, outside of orientation or HOF101, few employees get to see. In light of the conversation that framed this year’s annual staff retreat, the topic of food strikes me as another aspect of our continued connectedness as an organization.

For those of you who do not know or could not attend, the staff retreat is a once-a-year gathering of House of Friendship employees from all its programs. Hosted at Hidden Acres Mennonite Camp, it is a one day ‘time-out’ that brings everyone together for a time of reflection, relaxation and fellowship. The theme of this year’s retreat was ‘HOF Connected’.

I commented in my first post that I was gaining a new awareness of the way that food unites us all; each of us requires food to lead healthy, happy lives. I am reaching the same conclusion about House of Friendship. The more time I spend in this role, the more I can see the diverse programs within this agency are also connected by food in some capacity.

In this post, I’d like to share what that looks like at Eby Village, one of House of Friendship’s affordable, supportive housing programs. Opened in 1990, this nine story apartment building provides permanent housing for sixty-four single adults. Though it falls under residential services, Eby Village is much more than a stable place to live. The tenants and staff transform what is otherwise only a building filled with individuals into a space of community and interdependence. Simply put, it feels like the home of one giant family. (more…)

World Food Day: United Against Hunger

October 19, 2010

This Saturday was the 30th anniversary of World Food Day organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization, a body of the United Nations.  The theme this year is United Against Hunger.

Many governments, including Canada’s, have signed onto a variety of UN declarations and charters that stress the necessity of access to good food as a human right.  These include the Universal Declaration of  Human Rights and the Rome Declaration.

On a local level, as I blogged last week, food and hunger is in the news a lot lately.  But also shining through is the massive undertaking that community groups, individuals and businesses are a part of to help alleviate the problem of food insecurity. (more…)

Food in the news

October 14, 2010

“People don’t understand how much poverty there actually is in KW – if they did it would make a big difference.”

This is what one of our program patrons told us this summer during the survey project that Lucas and Lianna conducted.   It seems like people might be starting to get a better idea, especially if they’re watching or reading the news lately.

Food and food banks tend to be in the news a lot around this time of year as most food banks will kick off their fall food drives around Thanksgiving.   This year there is a little more to talk about.

As I mentioned in a previous post (here) the Put Food on the Budget Challenge was getting a number of local residents to walk a mile (or a week) in the shoes of a low income person trying to get by on an Ontario Works cheque.  After they wrapped up their efforts, Cambridge did the same.  You can find the blog detailing the Cambridge participants experiences here.

A common sentiment among many of the participants of both challenges was that it was harder to get by than they had originally realized.  The lack of energy, the constant preoccupation with food, where to get it and how to stretch it, made it a real challenge to get through the day.

Communities all across the province are doing similar work to try and create some momentum and help create a broader understanding of the issues.  You can find all of the blog and media coverage in one handy spot here.

The food banks of Kitchener Waterloo and Cambridge are still collecting food through their food drives to help keep all the programs like us going through the winter.  The need is still great in our community.  This last Friday at our program alone we served 203 families and individuals.  About mid day we also passed the 25,000 food hamper mark this year.  Demand is still strong and the need is still great in our community.

This last weekend, even Premier Dalton McGuinty (in this CBC article) stepped up to encourage people to make a contribution and help out.  Large food banks like the Daily Bread in Toronto (according to their twitter feed) are still falling short of their food drive targets.  This means even leaner hampers in the coming months for hungry people in our communities.

We’re more than just canned foods

October 13, 2010

“Today I had my first food bank experience. I can’t remember ever being through anything more humiliating.”

So begins a personal essay, published in 2006 in Briarpatch magazine.   In it, the author details their first visit to a food program and their frustrated expectations, hopes and forced adjustment to less than ideal circumstances.  You can read it by clicking here.

The author concludes their essay by commenting, “How would I ever feed my family if this was all I had to live on?”

The author of the Briar Patch article raises some important points throughout to reflect on, but this question is what we ask ourselves each day when we take stock of what is in our warehouse. (more…)

Diet, matters

October 8, 2010

Where I was born and grew up, people consume and cook a number of different food items, things that most people in Canada would be unfamiliar with. There aren’t too many things that I grew up eating that are sold here in the local stores, just like there aren’t a lot of people selling hot dogs on street corners where I was born. Food is very different depending on where you are in the world. (more…)

Where we go from here…

October 5, 2010

In a previous post, I provided information about the hamper audit, and statistics from the 2009 hampers – but how does that translate into our hampers each day and where do we go from here? First here’s a reminder of the 2009 overall averages for each food category and family size:

Grains Dairy Vegetables and Fruit Meat (and alternatives)
One person 5.4 2.3 9.2 5.6
Two people 3.7 2.0 5.8 4.3
Three people 3.8 1.9 6.3 3.1
Four people 3.3 1.8 5.7 2.8
These figures represent the average number of days a hamper in 2009 would last for each family size, based on the upper limit of the number of daily recommended servings for each food group from Canada’s Food Guide values.

Second, we’ll discuss each category in terms of the gaps and challenges we face in reaching our three to five-day goal of food. Then I will give some insight to the ‘tricks of the trade’ in boosting averages when possible and finally, I’ll wrap it all up with some food for thought. (more…)

Fill a bag with more than food

October 1, 2010

Most people are reminded about the need to donate food during the holiday season, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, when the food bank typically holds their food drive campaigns. At this time of the year the paper food drive bags are often included with the local flyers that are distributed to each household. Volunteers may also take these bags door-to-door encouraging the community to donate non-perishable products that can be distributed through the many different hamper and meal programs providing food assistance in the region.

The Food bank kicked off their Thanksgiving Food Drive on September 27. During the food drives we’re often reminded over the next few days and weeks about the number of people who rely on our food donations for assistance throughout the year. Each food drive also sets a goal of how much food they predict they’ll need between drives to support the number of people in need. All non-perishable food donations are graciously appreciated and accepted, but there are certain items that are in more demand than others. Click here to find out which specific items are most in need. (more…)