Posts Tagged ‘community food security’

The Christmas Bureau – A collaboration that includes everyone in holiday celebrations

December 15, 2015


This fall, speaking with individuals who were registering to receive a Christmas Hamper it became very clear how important the program is in the community. One man, a former chef, was very excited to be receiving a turkey that he could share with his family. You could clearly see the joy and excitement he felt at the thought of sharing his love of cooking with his family over the holidays.

Making sure over 4000 households have an opportunity to come together and celebrate the holidays wouldn’t be possible without the Christmas Bureau. The Christmas Bureau coordinates the efforts of local organizations that provide assistance to help people have a better Christmas. Every year local organizations, faith groups, community groups, individuals and families come together to make sure everyone in Waterloo Region has a wonderful holiday season. This collaboration works together to make sure that donations are assemble and distributed as effectively and efficiently as possible.

This project brings to life the collaborative spirit that organizations in the Food Assistance Network demonstrate throughout the year. The Food Assistance Network is a system of more than 100 community agencies and food programs, whose services support the basic food assistance needs of children, families, couples, individuals, and seniors–every day. They work together to provide services that make sure everyone in our community has access to healthy food.

At Christmas time, this collaboration results in something truly special – Christmas in a box, prepared and delivered lovingly by volunteers. The House of Friendship, Food Bank of Waterloo Region, and Salvation Army with other community partners work together to gather donations for special Christmas hampers full of food and toys to families in Waterloo Region.


All the Fixings for Holiday Dinner

It starts with a delivery of large proportions, not in Santa’s sleigh, but in The Food Bank of Waterloo Region’s Truck. This year over 60,000 pounds were delivered from the Food Bank of Waterloo Region to the MTD Warehouse that has been generously donated as the temporary warehouse for the Christmas Hamper project. This is combined with donations from the House of Friendship to create Christmas Hampers.

The Food Bank of Waterloo Region’s role is to make sure that programs participating have all of the food that they need to help any family that needs support. Over 60% of the food for the Christmas hampers comes from The Food Bank.

The role of House of Friendship is to coordinate the assembly and delivery of over 4,000 hampers to assist approximately 11,000 people in need. This involves finding donated warehouse space, recruiting and training hundreds volunteers.

Teams of volunteers work over 2 weeks assembling hampers. Some volunteers have been volunteering for years creating a sense of camaraderie as they prepare the packages. Others have been given the afternoon from local businesses to lend a hand in preparing the packages.

The Christmas Hamper has evolved over the years as staff and volunteers have listened to what the community needs. Last year Tony Bender, who coordinates Christmas Hampers, asked the recipients what they could do to make the hampers more special. They identified more fresh fruit would be welcome.

This year’s Christmas hampers are very interesting, a great variety of items – canned items, but also fresh food onions, carrots, oranges, apples, potatoes and of course some Christmas treats!

Each year the efficiency of the hamper process gets better. Each year processes are tweaked to make sure donations are processed and distributed as effectively as possible.

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Wednesday marked the first night that hampers were being delivered to the community. Every hamper is hand delivered to recipients homes, complete with well wishes from volunteers.


Gifts Under the Christmas Tree

Christmas wouldn’t be quite complete without children opening presents. The Salvation Army of Kitchener Waterloo provides families with toys to make sure there are presents under the tree on Christmas morning. Each year they provide over 5,500 toy hampers for children of all ages. The great importance of these donations is seen when parents come to pick up their toy hampers. Reactions can be anything from tears, laughter or smiles.


Celebration, Generosity and Gratitude

I don’t think there is a better example of how we as a community come together to help everyone in Waterloo Region feel a part of holiday celebrations.

The collaboration of the Christmas Bureau demonstrates many truths of this community. It shows that Waterloo Region is a place that is focused on working together to provide important services and to make sure what is given is stretched as far as possible to make sure all are included.

Most importantly it demonstrates the impressive, overwhelming generosity of members of our community who donate money, food or their time to make sure all families have a joyful Christmas.

Without members of the community donating their time, funds and food the Christmas Hamper programs simply couldn’t be done. It is the whole hearted generosity of this community that means all of us in Waterloo Region can come together to celebrate the holidays.

From the families of the Christmas Bureau to yours – Thank You and Merry Christmas.

Kate MacDuff

Food Assistance Network Coordinator

Food Bank of Waterloo Region

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…)

Community Through Food at Chandler Mowat

October 21, 2015


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.


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…)

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.


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…)

The PROOF is in The 1.6 Million

November 20, 2014

Last year, the research group PROOF published a national study of food insecurity in Canada. They concluded that

[h]ousehold food insecurity, inadequate or insecure access to food because of financial constraints, is a significant social and public health problem in Canada. In 2011, 1.6 million Canadian households, or slightly more than 12%, experienced some level of food insecurity. This amounts to nearly one in eight households, and 3.9 million individuals in Canada, including 1.1 million children. There were 450,000 more Canadians living in households affected by food insecurity in 2011 than in 2008.

And fortunately (for you, kind reader) the PROOF researchers also put together a slick info-graphic. (more…)

Northern Reflections on Food (in)Security

August 14, 2014

What would you do with $908? Take a cruise to Alaska? Buy a nice new bicycle? A TV? 900 boxes of Kraft Dinner? Bury it under a large rock?

Maybe you’d go grocery shopping?

There is no real grocery store in Gull Bay First Nation, an Anishinaabe community about 200 kms north of Thunder Bay. There is no good public transit connection between Gull Bay and Thunder Bay, meaning you drive. If you can’t afford a car or gas, you have to take a taxi. And you had better fill that cab to the gills, because it’s $908 round trip.

That’s $908 plus the cost of groceries.

A resident of Gull Bay shared this anecdote with Mike Balkwill, provincial organizer for the Put Food in the Budget campaign, on his recent tour of communities in northwestern Ontario. Mike has spent most of his life working with people living on a low-income in southern Ontario (specifically the GTA), and was invited to travel north this summer by Kathy Campbell, Executive Director of an emergency women’s shelter in Red Lake.

Kathy suggested a learning tour, of sorts, because poverty in the north is not like poverty in southern Ontario.