Author Archive

Farewell Food Hampers

August 27, 2010

Although I certainly haven’t been here as long as others who are saying goodbye (Michelle!), I still must express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to all the inspiring volunteers, staff, and patrons who have shared their lives and knowledge with me.  You have all shaped me to be a more passionate and informed individual, with a renewed drive to continue my university studies in poverty and development.

This summer has been especially important to me because, as someone born and raised in KW, I was painfully unaware of the persistent food insecurity that faces so many of my neighbours and community members. My four years studying International Studies at Laurier oriented my concerns toward the outside world; meanwhile, people from my school, my church, and my street, needed help surviving through their next week. Each day here has been both shocking and rewarding, especially the days when I stood across the counter from fellow students or patrons my own age. Their stories about financial or personal struggles will stay with me for the rest of my life, reminding me not only to constantly appreciate what I have but to share it with others.

Most importantly, my time here has drastically challenged my understanding of food banks and food banks users in the Western World. Programs such as the Emergency Food Hamper Program are not simply buildings filled with “free” food, but crucial resource re-distribution hubs, social havens for volunteers and struggling individuals, identifiers of gaps in social programs, and overall evaluators of community health and well-being. As long as I live I will continue to support the efforts of such crucial contributors to my community’s welfare.

I’m saying good bye to EFHP, but I’m not saying good-bye to understanding and working with KW food insecurity. Thank you all again for making this a life-altering summer!

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Food Bank Users and “Abusers”: 2010 Summer Survey Challenges Patron Stereotypes

August 27, 2010

Photo courtesy of Richard Dingwall

Lucas and I have spent much of the past two months at EFHP sitting down with patrons to complete our annual summer survey. We were able to conduct 120 interviews – about 13 more than last year – which will be compiled into a report in the coming months. When first assigned this task, I was worried that weeks and weeks of asking questions such as “why do you not always have enough to eat”?, would begin to wear down on my optimism and faith in my community. Instead, I came out of this project enlightened about the many strong, proactive and hopeful spirits I connected with this summer.

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Visiting Kingsdale Community Centre: The Benefits of Traffic Jams

August 11, 2010

Following our visits to the Sunnydale and Courtland-Shelley community centres, EFHP sent Lucas and I to discover the role of emergency food distribution at the Kingsdale Community Centre.  We came away with tired feet and many reflections on how food insecurity presents unique challenges to this large, diverse neighbourhood.

First, a bit of context: Kingsdale is a Kitchener community of about 19,000 households, many of them made up of low-income or new Canadian families. Kingsdale settlement worker Chander Gosain shared that many are from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Latin American countries.  Our tour through the Kingsdale Community Centre, run jointly between the Kingsdale Neighbourhood Association (KNA), House of Friendship, and the City of Kitchener, reveals rooms for programs such as sewing circles, settlement assistance, outreach, dance clubs, piano and guitar lessons, and after school clubs.

Many of these households benefit from a little extra food assistance during the week, a seemingly small undertaking that calls for dozens of volunteers and meticulous organization. Last year the program helped approximately 2500 individuals. Taking on this challenge is KNA President Janet Lilley, who shares that between 80-100 households are helped each week by the deliveries of excess produce from EFHP and non-perishables and frozen foods from the food bank.

When Janet chuckled at Lucas’ sandals, we knew that we wouldn’t be just passive observers. After a trip back to EFHP for Lucas’s steel-toed boots, we were ready for, as regular volunteer Margaret put it, “A real treat.”  We first piled the newly-delivered prickly pears, corn, zucchinis, bananas, and lettuce high around the indoor distribution tables, and soon patrons were received at the mini-intake desk in the lobby. What followed was an hour and a half of organized chaos. (more…)

Stone Soup at Sunnydale

July 23, 2010

In many ways, food distribution here at House of Friendship travels outside of the food hamper box.  Excess food from the hamper program, for example, is taken to HoF’s residential programs and community centres to assist with their programming. Lucas and I were given the task of visiting the Sunnydale Community Centre to observe how they distribute this food and swap some knowledge about KW food insecurity. What we discovered was not simply a table covered in fruits and vegetables, but a bustling, social space where community members can build relationships over the common need for food.

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Not Your Average Summer Gig

July 8, 2010

Hello! I’m Lianna, one of the Special Projects Assistants this summer.  I just graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University with a double degree in Global Studies and English and a minor in History; needless to say, I love learning, and learning about everything! I’ve finally zeroed in on the goal to study poverty, insecurity and education in graduate school in the coming years, something my heart was drawn to only recently. After too many monotonous after-school and summer jobs (from a clothing salesperson to an overworked waitress in Ireland) I was fortunate to turn a few weeks of volunteering into a summer student position with Habitat for Humanity Waterloo Region in 2008. I soon became passionate about working with not only underprivileged individuals in my community, but with dedicated volunteers that share my enthusiasm. I find that these traits make a position less of a job and more of a positive daily learning experience, something I have already sensed in my first few days at House of Friendship. (more…)