What do Volunteers, Early Explorers And Food Hampers Have in Common?


House of Friendship Volunteers enjoy a recognition dinner and presentation in their honour

It is hard to get the volunteers of the Emergency Food Hamper Program to slow down and take a break. Nonetheless, once a year we manage to convince about 80 or so of them to sit down together long enough to enjoy a meal and to be recognized for the distance that they go for the people of our community.

As The Crow Flies!

I have talked in the past about the trouble with big numbers (here), specifically how difficult it is to communicate their scale in a way that makes sense. What does 29,728 hampers look like!?

One yardstick that we use, and that our volunteers can relate to is the length of the path they take to pack a food hamper from start to finish.

Every time a volunteer grabs a food slip and starts on the shopping trip on behalf of a hamper recipient, they walk roughly 20 meters. (If they need to track down a special request or forget the dog food like I always do and have to back track then it’s a few meters more.)  So, 20 meters at a time, our volunteers measure out an epic journey over the course of each year that our Program serves our community.

The Volunteers of the House of Friendship of Kitchener has a group of volunteers that really go the distance

20 meters and 1 Hamper at a time our Volunteers raced all the way to Montreal between Sept 2013 and Sept 2014!

Take the number of hampers we packed between September 2013 and September 2014: 29,728 Emergency Food Hampers.

Crunching the numbers that translates to 594,560 meters, or 594 kilometres (or 369 miles).

That’s a huge distance to walk!  According to Google Earth, 594 km is roughly the distance between Kitchener Waterloo and Montreal as the crow flies.


Not only do our volunteers go the distance to help others, but they also move mountains of food.  How big a mountain?  It’s hard to measure, but one way to look at it, is to enlist the help of a big name in history.

Captain Cook and the volunteers of the Emergency Food Hamper Program have a special date in common

If you paid attention in school, you may be familiar with this gentleman, Captain James Cook.  Not only did he play a role in shaping the history of this country, but he also travelled all over the world.  Among his many accomplishments include the discovery of Australia all the way back in the year 1770.  That date is significant and relevant in a surprising way to our volunteers, but first, a mathematical digression.

How many times?

People are obsessed with trivia.  While my trivial pursuit skills are not the best, I do know that if you eat 3 meals a day, in a whole year you will have eaten 1095 times.

Another piece of food related trivia from Hampers is that our food hampers are supposed to last three to five days.  Being conservative, we can estimate that if we gave out 29, 728 hampers in a year, we gave out approximately 89,184 days of food (assuming a minimum of 3 days of food on average) or 267,552 meals. But wait! We’re in the realm of big numbers again, so we’ll need to get that down to a smaller, more relatable number.

Now, that volume of food we gave out in that one year period was divided among a lot of people.  And as we discussed this summer, there are challenges with our food hampers and getting them to stretch–see Jessica’s post here.

However, if you, humble reader, as a single person, were to sit down and eat your way through all the food that we gave out in the last year, it would take you the next 244 years to finish.

Or, to look at it another way, you would have had to start way back in 1770, back in the time of Captain Cook, to eat it all up and be here today, 244 years later, in shiny modern 2014.

Amazing isn’t it?  That’s our volunteers for you.

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