Archive for the ‘Emergency Food Hamper Program’ Category

To Chard or Not to Chard, Is a Silly Question, Because of Course You Should Chard

September 3, 2015

[Khadija, Summer Special Projects Assistant at House of Friendship’s Emergency Food Hamper Program, wrote the following.]

Summer is winding down for most of us, yet it’s only starting for some veggies, like the bright and beautiful swiss chard that is every day riper and more delicious.  A relative to the beet, this wondrous green gets overshadowed by its popular neighbour, kale,  but it can still hold its own!


Here are a couple reasons why Chard is a nutritional powerhouse:

  1. Excellent source of dietary fiber and iron
  2. Helps to manage diabetes by regulating blood sugar levels in the body
  3. Contains many important nutrients to support general health and wellbeing
  4. Chard’s leaves contain significant amounts of calcium, magnesium and vitamin K, which means that it is a major boost for bone growth and development
  5. As a valuable source of potassium and vitamin K (both of which are found abundantly in the brain and are integral parts of boosting cognitive development and abilities) chard is a definite “brain booster“!

Like all of our food, chard comes to us by donation: from the same community farm, from grocery stores like Loblaws, and from other fertile ground in this Region. We distribute it through the front lobby because not a lot of people are familiar with it. We give away food in the lobby when it’s unusual because we want hampers to contain food that people will use–that they’re familiar with and comfortable preparing.



An uber quick and delicious way to add one of world’s healthiest foods in your diet is with your pasta and even as a zesty side salad. We’ve got tonight’s dinner figured out for you!

Difference and Repetition at Food Hampers

August 13, 2015

[Chloe, Summer Special Projects Assistant at House of Friendship’s Emergency Food Hamper Program, wrote the following post.]

Now that you have some background knowledge of our operations, I want to discuss different aspects of the program that I have noticed over the course of my time here. This work has patterns, and at the same time, each day is unique. To get a variety of perspectives, I spoke to Jesse, who coordinates volunteers and does intake; Raymond, our distribution coordinator; and Luke, one of our many dedicated volunteers.


First Days and a Typical Day at the Food Hamper Program

August 11, 2015

[Chloe, Summer Special Projects Assistant at House of Friendship’s Emergency Food Hamper Program, wrote the following post.]

I have been fortunate enough to be part of the Emergency Food Hamper Program for the past three and half years, as a summer student and as a volunteer. Being here all this time has given me insight into how the program works, through patron intake, hamper packing and sorting donations.

Today’s post includes a glimpse into my very first day three years ago, as well as what a “typical” day here looks like. In part two of the series, coming soon, I collect and share various colleagues’s perspectives on what working at the program is like.


Drawing Inspiration From The Front Line

July 8, 2015

Where do you work and what do you do?

I work for House of Friendship’s Emergency Food Hamper Program. My job title is “volunteer coordinator—intake worker,” and so a lot of the work I do is coordinating volunteers and doing intake with our program ‘patrons.’ I also write for, and help to coordinate HOF’s blog.

What keeps you motivated?
Is anyone always motivated? I think it’s only natural that some days are overwhelming and disheartening, the world being the way it is—global warming! The Economy! ISIS!—and doing the kind of work we do. And I try not to feel despair about feeling despair, if that makes sense. I like the idea that “it is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” You need to be a functioning person in the world, but maladjustment or anxiety or whatever can also be a sign that you are paying attention to what’s wrong around you. MLK has also made this point, in his singularly eloquent way: “through such maladjustment, I believe that we will be able to emerge from the bleak and desolate midnight of man’s inhumanity to man into the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and justice.” (more…)

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.

Shut Up and Take My Money, part three! (Or, why cash transfers aren’t a silver bullet for food banks)

May 13, 2015

I spent the first two parts of this series with a bit of existential navel-gazing about food banks: should we close them down and give people money instead? Wouldn’t that be more efficient, and less paternalistic? So far, my answer is an emphatic maybe. On the one hand, people can make their own food choices with cash, and a complicated and intrusive bureaucracy would disappear.  On the other hand, that same infrastructure allows us to turn small donations into large amounts of food assistance.

In Debt to China

Cash rules everything around us

This post is part three of three, and that being so, it is time to reveal my bold answers to previously intractable problems.

It is wrongheaded to hold up cash transfers as the solution. Celebrating wealth because it gives us more choice and appears to increase our freedom has only ever worked for a few, at a great cost to many; and, ultimately, makes it more difficult to imagine new ways of living together and caring for each other.

Give a woman a fish, and she eats for a day. Teach a woman to fish, we are told, and she can feed herself forever. Give a man a can of tuna, and he eats for a day. Give a man some cash, and he decides.

I’ve so far been considering which is better, but why must these be the only options? What if her boat has a hole in it? What if her ancestors polluted and overfished all the rivers? Why are all these people fishing by themselves, for themselves? The questions we ask, and how we ask them, limits the range of possible answers and how we imagine alternatives–or not. (more…)

Shut Up and Take My Money, part two! (Or, why cash transfers aren’t a silver bullet for food banks)

May 6, 2015

Should we scrap food banks and instead give people money? In the first part of this series I outlined–with the help of a couple recent articles–why we should just give money. Food banks are disrespectful, and paternalistic. At the very least, people should be able to choose what they put in their own bodies, right? Food banks are also inefficient, requiring so many trucks and warehouses and volunteers. Giving money instead of food is a good idea, but, Debbie Downer here, I think it’s still more complicated, and that we can still do better. In what follows I complicate the two criticisms of food banking: paternalism and inefficiency.

Food banks and charities are paternalistic?

First off, what’s wrong with paternalism? Paternalism means I substitute my judgement for yours, because I claim to know better. In some cases, we accept or welcome other people’s authority in this way. When I’m sick, I choose to go to the doctor, and I happily give up my decision making to her.


However, part of what makes my life worth living is the feeling that I have more or less determined it for myself, or at least had a major say in most major decisions that affect me. Part of what it means to respect another human is to respect their ability to make decisions for themselves, and part of what it means to grow up is to ‘be allowed’ to make those decisions for yourself. This is true despite the fact that true ‘self-determination’ is a myth: we are social animals born into environments not of our choosing, constrained by the circumstances and histories that produced us. (more…)

Shut up and take my money!

April 30, 2015

Or, why cash transfers aren’t a silver bullet for food banks…

Today I am going to talk about giving money to ‘poor people,’ and about the massive architecture of helping that we continue to build, in part because we do not want to give money to people living on a low income. The titles of two recent articles by the Toronto Star reporter Ed Keenan outline what is at stake: “Shutting food bank first step in program to add respect to feeding hungry;” and, “Food-bank system’s absurd, but it shows we don’t lack for helpers.” Since I started this post, the CBC has also weighed in, with this video:

In many ways Keenan is right, though I aim to complicate his arguments as much as possible. I also aim to complicate his conclusion, which is that we should simply give money to folks who are struggling. Yes, it seems that money translates into more choice which translates into more freedom, but giving people money does not obviously affect the environment in which people must choose, and in which poor people must often “choose” between different terrible options. Closing down food banks will not make these choices better, or more accessible, but neither, unfortunately, will cash-instead-of-food. This piece is part one of three. (more…)

Gardens Grow Volunteer Engagement

April 24, 2015



This is the last post in a our week long series on the many gardens that have sprouted up around House of Friendship.  Aside from plants, there is a common thread that connects all of our different green endeavours together, and that is volunteers!

What better way to celebrate and recognize that amazing contribution than by sharing the words of Marlene, an all around incredible volunteer who was a dynamic presence at Supportive Housing last summer and fall.

She spent quite a bit of time working with tenants in the garden beds and kitchen, and shares some of her thoughts about what being a volunteer was like for her:

“Digging in the dirt, planting seeds, and watching things grow is every gardener’s delight. Last year, while digging in the dirt with House of Friendship residents, I had the opportunity re-visit the awe and wonder that comes along with seeing those little seeds sprout. We shared many laughs and chats while nurturing seedlings, creating new gardens and caring for mature plants.” (more…)