Author Archive

The State of Food Insecurity: Hunger Count 2015

November 17, 2015


hungercount2015-singles-p3-normalToday, Food Banks Canada released the HungerCount 2015 report, which shows that 850,000 people access food banks each month. More than 300,000 of those helped are children. Here in Waterloo Region 1 in 20 households received food assistance. Half of these households are families with children.

The HungerCount offers stark evidence of the realities faced by far too many people in Canada: the reality that a job does not always guarantee food security; the reality that safe, quality housing is too often unaffordable; the reality that social assistance, disability and basic pension benefits are inadequate to support people who have fallen on hard times.

The volunteers and staff who run community food banks are proud of the work they do to help Canadians put enough food on the table. Nationally, the food bank network has adapted to changing times by increasing the variety of food available to the people it helps, and by providing services that go beyond the simple provision of food. The network today is radically different from what existed in the 1980s, when food banks first started opening their doors in Canada.

In Waterloo Region, we have a vital community Food Assistance Network of more than 100 programs anchored by two food banks: the Cambridge Self Help Food Bank and The Food Bank of Waterloo Region. By working together the network provides a respectful, warm environment where members of our community can receive the nutritious food they need. They can connect with programs that empower them to learn more about healthy eating, budgeting, food preparation and services to help find employment, counselling, affordable housing and other needs. (more…)

Ten Days Of Food Hampers At The Food Hamper Program: Part Two

November 2, 2015

This is the second part of Chloe’s two part photo essay of food hampers at the Emergency Food Hamper Program.

In the first week, we saw the change of items from day to day as new items came in, and other items ran out. This post covers a busier period of time where we had different items in, and had to steward our resources carefully to avoid running out.


Week of August 17th-21st

Every day these items were given out: One kilogram of meat, five pounds of potatoes, one can of soup, cauliflower (either as a choice or as the fresh vegetable given out that day), onions (either a bunch of green onions or a cooking onion), two boxes of Kraft Dinner, one jar of peanut butter (choice on size and flavour), one can of beans in sauce, a dessert of some kind (pound cake, cinnamon bread or individually wrapped cookies), bread (one or two depending on the day, various kinds), one carton of juice (various flavours, between 1L-1.75L), one container of Becel margarine (different flavours, between 1-2lbs), and one litre of milk.


  • Hampers up to that point in the week: 51
  • Hamper extras: One can of black olives, one can of corn, one can of peaches, one bag of Potato Thins crackers, two packets of Minigo yogurt, ½ a dozen eggs
  • Window extras: Choice between an avocado or lentil casserole, one watermelon, six ears of corn
  • Total Daily Hamper Count: 136

image6 (more…)

Ten Days Of Food Hampers At The Food Hamper Program: Part One

October 26, 2015

Today I am happy to share a post from Chloe, long time volunteer, and occasional intake worker!


Ever since I started volunteering here, it was obvious that a food hamper that a family receives one day will differ from what a family receives the next day. This is because of the variability of our donations. Even though there are foods we generally give out with every hamper, what specifically is included changes all the time. In this blog I will show a hamper a day for a two person family (near the average family size we serve of 2.4), over two weeks.

For each day I will mention the number of hampers distributed and any extras given out. I separated out “hamper” extras and “window” extras. The hamper extras are given as part of every hamper, but the patrons do not have to take the window extras. These items are put at the window if we have large quantities of them (like ears of corn or trays), or if they are a unique item.

The intent of this post is to show the variability of hampers over the space of a week vs another week, to illustrate the impact unexpected donations may have, and as luck would have it, the struggle involved to fairly distribute an unknown quantity of food to an unknown quantity of people.


Putting Hunger on The Map For The 2015 Federal Election

October 15, 2015

Jobs that involve working with people are interesting and challenging. Depending on the nature of your job, you might get to know some people enough to recognize them, or even remember their names outside of your workplace.  I’m sure teachers get this a lot the longer they teach.  You’ll be out running an errand and you’ll see all sorts of former students or their parents.  Some you’ll remember, but some, likely not.  It’s funny what sticks in your mind or doesn’t.

Jobs that require you to work with the public make you realize the truth in the phrase “it’s a small world.”

I remember when I first started working at the House of Friendship’s Men’s Hostel on Charles Street, that the down town core of Kitchener changed for me.  I was not born it Kitchener or Waterloo, so I didn’t know a lot of people here when I first started living here.  It didn’t take too long working at the Hostel before I could recognize a lot of the people I passed on the street down town as former or current residents.  It drove home the understanding that most of the poverty that exists in our community is largely invisible and everyone has a story.

Now that I have been working at the Food Hamper Program for more than a decade, it doesn’t matter where I go.  I will usually see at least one or more people that I have served at some point.  At the grocery store, library, my kids school or just walking through my neighbourhood.  It is a small city after all and as I am about to share, (and have in the past) there are very few neighbourhoods in the city that don’t have someone in them who has needed our help at one point or another in the course of any given year.

Who Needs A Food Bank?  Your Neighbour Does

In the previous post we shared what some of our community centre, food hamper and supportive housing participants had to say about the upcoming Federal election.

Today I would like to share some information specific to our Emergency Food Hamper Program, carrying on the work we did this summer, to determine what share each Federal and Provincial Electoral district had of the people we helped over a year.

For the Federal election, things are a little different, because of the additional of a new riding for this election and the modification of the remaining ones.

So, for the candidates striving for victory, once the votes are counted, and the winner announced, how many households that have needed a food bank will they represent? (more…)

Something To Chew On This Thanksgiving

October 12, 2015

House of Friendship thinks you should vote for the community you want to seeOne of the first volunteer jobs I had in Kitchener Waterloo was doing non partisan outreach to encourage people to vote. One of my tasks involved standing on a corner, down the street from St. John’s Kitchen (back before it moved to it’s new location on Victoria Street) and handing out material to the men and women who were going in and out of the building to get a hot meal.

I saw a lot of people that day, and not all of them were thrilled to talk to me about why they should vote. While some were enthusiastic, I would say the majority of them expressed indifference, and occasionally, a fair degree of hostility to the political process, in which they felt they had no say, or representation.

Fair enough, the last thing you want to do is stand around with a stranger and talk about the how and why of voting when all you want is something to eat.

Which raises a big question: how can you engage with the political process when you have more immediate concerns in front of you, namely, no food, or even, no place to call a home? (more…)

Reflections On Housing And Harm Reduction

October 9, 2015

This is the final part of the series of guest posts considering the topic of housing and harm reduction.  In this piece I am happy to share some reflections from Ron F, House of Friendship’s Residential Services Director.


(I write these reflections in the early morning setting of a coffee shop in downtown Kitchener. Some of the surrounding tables are occupied by strangers to me, others by people I know as tenants or residents of House of Friendship residential programs. We are all included in this daily community at the caffeine dispensary.)

I really like Sara’s framing of the issue of housing and harm reduction as an issue of community inclusion. This is aligned with our House of Friendship vision of “a healthy community where all can belong and thrive”. Community inclusion and harm reduction approaches both begin with “belonging” by “accepting a person where they are at” without judgement. I believe the goal is not simply “belonging”, but “healthy belonging” where “healthy” refers to a respectful social environment in which everyone’s capabilities are nurtured and accepted as valuable contributions to the community. (more…)

Reflections On A Summer At The Food Hamper Program

September 9, 2015

House of Friendship believes strongly in housing as a right

Today I am please to share the final post from one of our summer students, Khadija, where she shares some reflections on her eight weeks here at the Food Hamper Program.


I have had a new and eye opening experience here at the Emergency Food Hamper Program at the House of Friendship. I have been introduced to an environment that has allowed me to come in contact with an  array of individuals – from those facing food insecurity working to make ends meet to those teaching and/or getting numerous degrees at prestigious institutions.

I was extremely blessed to learn more about where and how I, as a student, millennial and general human being can be kinder, more understanding, conscious and loving. I’ve come to better grasp where my boundaries are with others so that I may courteously address them and stand up for myself. I’ve learned that respect is a word that is unique to each individual and should be attuned to each person’s comfort level – no two folks will have the same take on what is ok to say or do anytime or anyplace. It was a much needed summer here. I’m a better person for it. My values and ideals have been put to the test and I think that in itself has been the best thing that could have come out of the last two months. The next few paragraphs are going to delve into some of the challenges that I experienced and chose to address in my role as the Summer Special Projects Assistant here at the EFHP. Happy reading! (more…)

Welcome Chloe and Khadija

July 13, 2015

We are pleased to welcome Chloe and Khadija who will be with us at the Food Hamper Program from July to August.  They sat down together early on and took some time to interview each other.  Over the summer they will be writing a series of posts to share some of their experiences, to share the perspectives of the people we serve and to pass along a few of the things that they learn during their time with us.

Khadija shared:

“Chloe France has already volunteered at the House of Friendship’s Emergency Food Hamper Program so she was ready to jump right in as my co-intern! As a fifth year student at the University of Waterloo she has kindly offered her tips and tricks for navigating successfully through not only work but also school. Her passion and keen interest in social relations keeps me excited to not only learn abundantly this summer while at the HOF but also work closely with a new friend.”

Chloe shared:

“Khadija Hamidzai is a new recruit to the Emergency Food Hamper Program making her first few days as a summer student quite an eye-opening experience! But with her purposeful attitude and vibrant personality she has taken all of her tasks in stride and has quickly meshed with the rest of the team. I am excited to watch her on her journey this summer as she continues to learn more about the people we work with and the issues we face creating experiences that she can take with her in her future career in this field.”


How To Take Two Trips For The Price Of One

June 19, 2015

Museums like the ROM, different cities, camps and more are all great places to go on a school trip. Photo via Flickr user Grant MacDonald

One of the nice things about being a parent is the opportunity to accompany your child or children on a school trip: you get some insight into class room dynamics, spend some time with your child, and learn a bit about the environment in which they spend so much of their time.

At the end of the year, many classes organize school trips.  I remember these as great experiences to go outside of the community I grew up in, visit new places with my friends and have a lot of fun.

For the first part of this week, my co-worker at the Emergency Food Hamper Program, Raymond, was absent as he accompanied one of his children on an end of year trip.  As a result I stepped into his role a little more than I usually do, and coordinated the challenging and interesting job of receiving, organizing, inventorying and distributing the many food donations we receive.  This week was a little more challenging than others. (more…)

Remembering Our Dear Friend Mike

May 25, 2015

Mike C was one of the best people I have ever had the privilege to meet

It is with a very heavy heart that we learned about the passing of our long time friend and volunteer Mike C. Profiled on our blog the qualities we described then continued to apply until the last time we saw him this past January when his battle with cancer forced him to take some time off.

He was always a caring, and generous person and made many lasting friends here.  Through his struggles with cancer he never lost his incredibly positive attitude.  He was always full of encouragement and support for those around him, and the many people he helped directly by assembling their food hampers.

His absence will be felt in many profound ways, but the qualities that he demonstrated are an example to all of us, and will inspire us as we carry on the work of helping others that he took such joy in doing.

A visitation will be held tomorrow, Tuesday May 26, as detailed here.

If you knew Mike please leave a comment below and join us in celebrating his life.


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