Archive for the ‘Emergency Food Hamper Program’ Category

Opening Up Food Hampers This Summer

July 7, 2016

This summer two years of planning and discussing will finally pay off as work will officially begin on a major renovation and reworking of our Emergency Food Hamper Program on Guelph Street.

We are going to extend the front of our warehouse by about 20 feet, demolish the house that sits awkwardly in the middle of our parking lot and greatly improve the safety and efficiency of our operation as a whole.

The New Face of Food Hampers after it's renovation

Food Hampers In A Nutshell

Each week we have two basic jobs:

  1. We receive and sort and store food.
  2. We meet people who need help, we register them, and we give them food.

What Is happening This Summer?

Starting the week of July 11 we will be operating out of two sites.

We will be closed July 11 to finalize the move.  We will be open to the public starting Tuesday July 12.

We will do our food receiving, sorting and storing at the Food Bank of Waterloo Region.  This is job number 1.  Half of our staff and volunteer team will operate there for the better part of each day and get things organised for the other half of the staff and volunteer team that will be at 797 Guelph Street (next door to our current warehouse).  At 797 Guelph we will do job number 2:  Registering people who need help and sharing food with them. (more…)

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Link 2 Feed And a Full Year of Food Assistance

May 10, 2016

“I am going through a transition period losing my job and applying for Second Career for a chance to change the course of my life. I’ve been on EI which will end soon and it’s extremely hard for me to make ends meet, and […] I can’t afford to buy any food, and was wondering where to go for some food hampers?”  “Sarah”

For someone like Sarah, the effort and planning and work that happens each day in our community to save and redistribute food is likely a bit of a mystery.  How it happens isn’t relevant.  That it happens is the most important thing.

As the economic restructuring and changes to the social safety net have unravelled over the last three decades (soon to be four!) communities have adapted and developed tools to help people and to help understand their stories.

A year ago, I wrote about Link 2 Feed, a new on-line database that the local  Food Assistance Network was adopting.  Well, a year later, we have a year worth of experiences and data to share.

Adventures In Data Entry

What is Link 2 Feed? The short version is that it is a cloud based database that by now, the majority of food assistance programs in this region, and an increasing number of similar programs in different parts of the province, have adopted.  Locally, it allows us to work off of one set of records, and for the first time, allows us to definitively understand how many people are turning to food banks to get through difficult times.

In the last 12 months we have actually found our daily service numbers easing off a little from an average in 2014 of 600 families and individuals each week to about 570 families and individuals.  This is a further decline of a weekly height of 700+ during the last major global recession.

Between March 2015 and February 2016, we shared 26,000+ food hampers with approximately 8100 households, made up of approximately 19,000 people.  That works out to an average of about 110 families and individuals getting some help from us each day, Monday to Friday.

Unfortunately for our fingers we had to type the names, birthdays, addresses and other demographic information of a significant number of those 19,000 people into the new Link 2 Feed database.  March and April 2015 were unpleasant and stressful for our clients because they had to wait while we did that, and for us, because it was constant typing and clicking and double checking what we had input.

Simplicity And Ease of Use…

I want to celebrate what a fantastic, wonderful giving community I’m so lucky to reside in. Today I struggle with trying to stay positive.  I’m here because of an addiction.  I just want to say thanks… “Frank”

A year later, things are fairly smooth and the majority of our case load has been incorporated into the system. Each month we meet a few hundred people needing to use food banks for the first time, or people returning from a long absence for one reason or another.

The initial pain of entering thousands of people into the system is past us and we can start to work on ways to make the system work for people like Frank, quoted above.

Link 2 Feed can help all of us working to share food to work together to identify who falls through the cracks of the existing network, begin to understand which parts of the network work with whom and how resources can move to the parts of the city that need more support. Most importantly it will allow the network to speak persuasively about the magnitude of the problem, and as I wrote recently, take measure of how well Food Banks are solving this problem.

So What Can Link 2 Feed Tell Us About Who The Emergency Food Hamper Program Served In The Last Year?

Most turn to us when they have no income, or are forced through circumstances to rely on Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program.  This is not unusual for a food hamper program like us.  This is more or less, the profile of the people who access food help anywhere in our province.

Sources of Income for the Households Served by the Emergency Food Hamper Program 2015-2016

“It’s Okay to Ask For Help…”

Most did not use us often, with a little more than half of the households only coming 1 or 2 times.  A very small group did require more assistance however, which again, is not unusual.  Typically the people who need to access our services more than average are physically isolated due to age and/or a chronic health conditions that creates a barrier to accessing other services in the region.

 

EFHP Number of Visits Per HH 2015-2016

The total number of times a household visited the Emergency Food Hamper Program between 2015-2016

I’ll Save Some For Other People Who Need It More… The Contradictions Of Food Distribution

Because of the limits of our program (supply, size, volunteers) we are not able to assist people on a monthly or ongoing basis, but when asked, people who need our help will typically describe a greater need than we are able to meet.  It is difficult to generalize because each person who comes through our door has their own story and idea about what we are going to be able to do for them.  It is not unusual for people to self limit what they are taking because they feel like they will be taking away from others if they take more.

I’m sure you have heard the expression “someone always has it worse than you do.” Usually, when I hear that sentiment it’s used to help someone get some perspective on a situation that isn’t that dire.  But, many of the people I have spoken to over the years have embraced the idea that there are people who are in greater need than they are even though they themselves are pretty close to the bottom.  Because of this they often think they should be very careful about taking what we have because with each additional thing they take, they are in effect taking it out of the hands of someone else.

This is often not necessarily the case, because in many instances, we have an abundance of some things and if someone takes more bananas when we have 5 pallets out of sight in our warehouse, they are doing everyone a favour.  They benefit from getting the produce, and we benefit by finding a home for the surplus items, saving them from landfill and eventual spoilage if we can’t get them into someone’s home in time.

What You Can Take Home

We are not as busy as we were in previous years when we were mired in a global recession, but every day, hundreds of people in our community face the reality of hunger. In the space of year we served food that supported more than 1 in 20 of the households of Kitchener and Waterloo.  Coming to us for help is not easy, and when many are here making choices about what to take, they are hesitant and careful.

Experiencing deprivation and making hard choices about basic things like food, rent and things that your family may need are never taken lightly.  The experience takes time and huge amounts of energy.  For many of the households we serve in a year, they do not come in more than six times but for 1 in 10 households we serve there are persistent barriers to accessing us, and a higher level of need.

In Kitchener-Waterloo approximately 6300 hampers are distributed each month by all of the organizations that help with food, House of Friendship included.  By making a donation of food you can help fill a part of one of those boxes.

One way you can do that is by helping The Food Bank of Waterloo Region.  They play a central role in keeping food flowing into the organizations that serve those 6300 hampers each month.  Between May 1 and June 4 they are part of a national month long campaign to ‘fill every plate’ this summer.  Make a donation, organize a food drive with friends, get creative and lead by example with #everyplatefull

EPF_PLATE_logo1

 

 

After 30 Years of Food Banking How Are We Doing?

February 5, 2016

We are rapidly closing in on the 1 year anniversary of adopting Link 2 Feed.  If you recall, we blogged about it last year and some of the implications of using it for the future.  Look forward to a bit of analysis next month as we consider a year worth of data and what insights we might gain from it about hunger in the region and how busy our program was.

Today I wanted to reflect on 2015 in general, which provides a nice opportunity to consider 30 years of food banks, basically, from their inception as a desperate measure to help out, to an established and complicated part of a very different society.

I want to narrow the focus down to the experience of the House of Friendship.  We have spoken in other posts about what food banks do, some alternatives and some implications of different ideas.  I want to sidestep that, and instead take a look at what emergency food assistance looks like for the us. (more…)

Keep Paying It Forward In 2016

January 11, 2016

Happy New Year everyone!

Now that the Holiday Season is behind us and everyone seems to be getting back into their usual weekly routines I wanted to share some words from some of our Emergency Food Hamper Program Volunteers, as a way to offer some encouragement to those of you who have decided that 2016 will be the year of getting involved in your community!

Why Volunteer?

Maybe you followed our #12daysforgood campaign and saw something in the daily themes that resonated with you, perhaps you have made a New Year’s resolution to do something and volunteer because you are grateful for support you have received at some point in your life.  There are a million different reasons, but one fact remains: volunteering has many benefits, not just for others, but also for yourself! (more…)

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.

Monday

  • 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!

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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.

(more…)

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…)

Planting A Seed: Starting A Conversation About Food Security And A Basic Income

September 16, 2015

Today we are happy to share some insight from Jen H, a local Food System’s Roundtable member and Public Health dietician.  This post is the start of a three part series on the significance of a Guaranteed Basic Income and connects it to discussions of hunger in Canada, and locally, here in Waterloo Region.

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A while back I attended a webinar about food security – or the lack thereof – in Canada. It was hosted by a well-known researcher on the subject, Valerie Tarasuk. I serve on the Food System’s Roundtable Food Access working group and thought the information presented in the webinar made some interesting points about accessing food in Canada, which may help form conversations around how to address the issue of food insecurity in Waterloo Region.

Food security is a complicated concept that touches on, and is affected by every aspect of the food system, human health and beyond. Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Many factors can affect one’s food security negatively or positively. (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.

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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…)