Helping Families Move Forward – How Food Banks Help

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This fall Lina Shamoun, a local entrepreneur, went on a tour of The Food Bank of Waterloo Region with other young business owners. The questions being asked made her realize that some people do not understand who needs help and why.  She realized she had an opportunity to help educate the community through her family’s experience and it would be important for her to share her story.

Lina’s story is one of many of those who have relied on food assistance in tough times. She was 14 when her family came to Canada.

“We struggled to learn English, learn about our new home’s culture, and how to belong.  It is hard for me now to look back and fully comprehend what my parents did for us.  Somehow they found ways to adapt, adjust and to earn a living to support my 4 younger siblings and I so we could become part of the Canadian fabric,” she shares.

Those first few years were particularly difficult and Lina’s parents impressed upon her the importance of the food support they received through the local church programs by showing her the schedule of when they were eligible for food assistance. To this day they keep a record to remind them of the generosity of their neighbours.  

Anyone can be in need for brief periods or longer stretches of time. Shamoun said her father worked to provide for five growing children yet he still needed food support during the first 2 years here.

Today Lina and her family are proud Canadians, grateful for what they received and actively giving back to help others dealing with difficult circumstances.

“We all have a role to play in helping our neighbours know that they belong in our community,” she said.

Hunger Count: Ontario

Last week the Ontario Association of Food Banks released a report of the number of people accessing food banks in Ontario. The numbers remain sadly very consistent with 358,963 people visiting food banks in March 2015 in Ontario, only a slight decrease from 2014.

With this release of the Ontario perspective  and the recent release of the Food Banks Canada’s 2015 national HungerCount report it is easy to get lost in numbers, to forget that each household has experienced unique setbacks that have lead them to reach out to a food bank.

Often one unexpected health issue, bad investment, job loss, or relationship breakdown can result in a household having to rely on food assistance to make sure there are healthy foods in their home.

 One of The Biggest Food Bank Misconceptions…

The consistency of the number of people accessing food banks can also reveal another misconception about food bank use. Often members of the community think that individuals who access food banks become reliant on the services. That it prevents them from moving on, from becoming self-sufficient. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of stigma surrounding accessing food banks and experiencing food insecurity.

Food banks are a resource that are used by the community when they experience financial difficulties or unforeseen circumstances that result in them not having enough to meet all their basic needs.

As some families are able to move forward, others in our community face difficult circumstance that result in them having to rely on food banks.

Dealing With The Unexpected

People like Susan. Susan recently shared with me that at the age of 34 she had to access a food assistance program for the first time. Despite working two or three jobs money just always seems to be tight and when she had to have expensive dental surgery it was the unexpected expense that made it impossible for her to pay for rent, other expenses and food.

She was grateful that there was a program a few blocks away that could help her get through the month.

Susan hopes that in the New Year one of her part time jobs will give her enough hours so that she can focus on one job and have enough to no longer rely on the food assistance programs. She also hopes to give back to the food bank when she is back on her feet to support the programs that were there for her when she needed some support.

Food Banks provide an important safety net for those in our communities who face hard times. A resource to make sure they don’t have to worry about where their next meal will come from while they work towards solutions to move forward.

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One Response to “Helping Families Move Forward – How Food Banks Help”

  1. Matt Cooper Says:

    This post was written by Kate from the Food Bank of Waterloo Region! Thanks Kate.

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