Archive for the ‘Food Assistance Network’ Category

Hunger Awareness Week – Let’s Draw The Line On Hunger

September 19, 2016

Today we are pleased to share a piece written by Wendi Campbell, Executive Director of the Food Bank of Waterloo Region.

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Hunger Awareness Week - Let's Draw The Line On Hunger

This week is Hunger Awareness Week. Food Banks Canada is asking us all to draw the line on hunger. Across Canada 850,000 people access a food bank each month. Here in Waterloo Region 12000 people access food assistance each month. How can this be?

The food assistance network in Waterloo Region consists of more than 100 community programs with The Food Bank of Waterloo Region and the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank at the centre. Every day, throughout the community, the staff and volunteers of these programs hear stories of despair turning into stories of hope because along with the food came a smile, a connection to a vital resource, words of encouragement and the knowledge that they were not alone. For many of those seeking assistance their stories are connected to mental health challenges – family breakdowns following job loss, years of battling and illness that has resulted in being unable to work, addictions deeply rooted in childhood trauma and an overwhelming inability to move on.

The Food Bank of Waterloo Region held an event recently to explore mental health as one of the underlying factors affecting the need for food support. Martin Bauman spoke of his recently completed fund and awareness-raising cross-Canada bicycle trek. He informed those in attendance that 1 in 5 Canadians deals with mental illness in their lifetime. On his journey Martin realized the transformative power conversation can have – simply talking and sharing with someone else can make an immeasurable difference. His message that it is important to look out for one another and simple things like smiling and having a conversation have a positive impact were reinforced by singer song writer Chris Scott’s “All It Takes” song. His lyrics, “with a touch of love, they can rise above all the shame. With a chance their lives will never by the same” helped drive home the importance of connectedness.

Police Chief Bryan Larkin and the Working Centre’s Executive Director Joe Mancini brought to mind many images of our community and those struggling to make their way. Whether it be someone asking for assistance at a street corner or someone dealing with their personal challenges silently, and unknown to you, our community has many residents that need help. The initiatives of our local Food Assistance Network strive to make connections among people as well as to critical resources. The most important connection is the bridge from despair to hope that is made by simply acknowledging their existence.

Homelessness, poverty, lack of employment, mental health are intertwined social issues. Often the intersection occurs at a community food program providing emergency food hampers, shelter, outreach, food pantry or meal programs. Communities across the country are facing social issues that have no easy solution and require open minds, thinking differently and creative, systems-based solutions. Bringing people together in new ways, gently encouraging connectedness can help to mend broken social bonds that are exasperated by stresses such as limited work options.

This Hunger Awareness Week we encourage everyone to take time to reflect and connect with those we know are struggling and consider who else may need a helping hand, a reassuring smile and a touch of kindness. Thank you for your support of our community’s Food Assistance Network. Together we are drawing the line on hunger.

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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

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Continuing Conversation About The Working Poor

March 29, 2016

The following is a repost of a piece that ran yesterday, in the Cambridge times, written by Marjorie, a BSW student on placement at House of Friendship.  It carries on the theme we explored in a few posts last year and raises some questions that the many people we meet each day struggle with.

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My name is Marjorie and I am a member of the working poor.

I have to thank Lisa Rutledge of the Cambridge Times for publishing her series of articles on the working poor last June.

This opened a dialogue which has persisted over time. I have been approached on the street, on the bus, at church, at work, by people who had read these articles, largely because my photo was featured in one of the articles.

I have, for some, become the face of the working poor.

Many wanted to discuss the issues. Many were experiencing the same problems, but others were surprised that I was dealing with these problems. It was not a visible problem to them.

There continues to be a misconception of just who the working poor are, and whether it is because of their behavior that they remain poor. Hopefully that misconception is being corrected due to articles such as the series done by Ms. Rutledge.

Now that the conversation has begun, where do we go now? How can we collectively improve the lot of the working poor.

It seems to me to be grossly unfair for a person to work full-time, to not be able to provide for their family in a meaningful way.

There is an argument for decent work, for decent wages. What would be a decent wage? (more…)

Helping Families Move Forward – How Food Banks Help

December 4, 2015

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.   (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…)

Community Through Food at Chandler Mowat

October 21, 2015

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House of Friendship (HoF) runs an Emergency Food Hamper program. If you’re reading this blog, you likely already know this. You might not, however, know that—or how—food is a big part of many other HoF programs. That’s a shame, because food is great. It brings people together, it is a vehicle for change, and it tastes so good! To help share the story of food at HoF, we enlisted our two summer students, Chloe and Khadija. Together they visited the Chandler-Mowat community centre, and what follows are their collected thoughts.

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Chandler-Mowat is one of House of Friendship’s four community centres, which the organization runs in partnership with the City of Kitchener. The community centre is also home to many City of Kitchener employees, volunteers, and so many of the wonderful folks around the neighbourhood.

Thursday afternoons are a busy time at Chandler Mowat. The food distribution program at the Chandler Community Centre is held once a week in their gym. It’s set up much like the farmer’s market with tables of food and community members walking by picking what they like. The only difference is that there is no exchange of goods – they are given away freely by program volunteers! Food distribution starts at 2:00, but it is not uncommon to see many patrons sitting in the waiting area well before it starts, catching up with neighbours. (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…)

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!

Wikipedia

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.

 

Wikipedia

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!

You Say Zucchini, I say Courgette, and Darwin Says Cucurbita Pepo

August 20, 2015

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

Summer – aside from being the season for sticky popsicles and pool parties- is also a time for an abundance of produce at the farmer’s market. Like zucchini! Today I dig up some very worthy praise for this wonderful, and plentiful, vegetable.Zucchini is good for you, for many different sciencey reasons, including:

  1. It is low in cholesterol
  2. Some Vitamins in zucchini help lower blood pressure
  3. Vitamins C and A in Zucchini are key nutrients to maintain health
  4. High levels of magnesium and folate from zucchini reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke
  5. Zucchini also provides you with lutein and zeaxanthin- two phytonutrients which are needed for healthy eyesight!
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Zucchinis in the lobby!

Zucchinis come in many shapes and sizes—most of ours come from a community farm in the GTA that grows vegetables for us and other food programs. At this time of year we distribute zucchinis through the window as an option for patrons. Because we often receive them in such massive quantities, we also usually end up sharing zucchinis in the front lobby with anyone who stops by.

So, how can you enjoy this super vegetable?! Zucchini pizza is currently all the rage for those of us on the go. But for those of us with more time on our hands we can now enjoy pizza without the carbs. What excites me even more is that you can combine chocolate and zucchini together to make pretty sweet muffins!

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.

(more…)