Posts Tagged ‘food hampers’

Sweet potato pie!

September 3, 2013

In today’s blog post, Chloe will share her experiences with sweet potatoes.

source:

source: Flickr

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The question box: why do we give out expired food?

July 24, 2012

Our question box

At a service program like Emergency Food Hampers, it’s often hard to make staff seem approachable. No matter how friendly or trusting staff act towards patrons, there will always be a power divide. We have the power to give people food or withhold it for reasons we deem legitimate. Although we do make many exceptions and operate based on trust, the perceived (and real) power divide exists.

It was partially for this reason that a few weeks ago, we came up with the idea of putting a question box in our lobby. The idea behind this is that if people felt too self-conscious or shy to ask front desk staff a question about our program, they can put it in the box instead. If they leave a telephone number or email, we can contact them within a week to answer their question. If they don’t, we can answer the question on the blog. This is supposed to be a way for people to have multiple routes to getting information about our program. As such, this is installment one of question box answers.

The first question we found in the box read: why do you give people expired food? This is an excellent question!

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Lost for words

June 25, 2012

Michael, the BSW student who is with us twice a week, had this to say recently about an experience he had on intake:

One day, while working behind the Food Hamper program’s intake counter, I met an older woman who I may never meet again. However, a mark was left and a burning memory remains.

Late in the afternoon, during an average, uneventful day, an ordinary looking, older woman came to the front asking for food assistance. I asked her name, entered it into our computer system, and up popped her profile. It was similar to all of our other program participants’ profiles except for one glaringly red difference. Up in the corner were the large red words, CANCER. Before I could confirm this with her she told me, “I have lung cancer.” Here I was with someone who not only required emergency food assistance but the food provided by the program was going towards supporting her recovery or, at the least, to help her cope with her poor health. This woman had to have been under an incredible amount of stress; emotional and mental stress in requiring the program’s help and physical stress due to her health. After she left some thoughts continued to stick in my mind. (more…)

Tears of change

October 21, 2011

We’ve said it before that one of the first times people come to our program is one of the hardest. Not only are they answering personal questions to complete strangers in front of many other people waiting for a food hamper; but they’re also coming to terms with the fact that despite every effort to support themselves they need food assistance. You may remember our intake process video from Matt’s post, but here’s the other side to the intake story. Let me introduce Ashley, a single mom of five children.

I never imagined coming to a food bank – especially with all my children with me. I try to work as many hours as possible while they’re in school but it doesn’t always work. If one of my kids gets sick, I have to call in to work because I don’t have anyone that can baby-sit, and I can’t afford to hire anyone. That’s part of what set me back actually: one kid got sick after another. My boss has been really understanding which helps. She’s a single mom too…The people who helped me register for a food hamper were really nice. I didn’t want to be too greedy taking everything from the checklist, because I knew I’d get paid in about a week and could then go buy these things. My kids are great in understanding that sometimes I can’t provide them with everything. But it really helped that the people at the counter tried to put me at ease and encourage me to take more food items if we didn’t have them at home, even if I could afford to buy them in a few days …I had no idea how much food that would mean though. I broke down in tears after the volunteer finished packing my hamper. Someone who has never met me before just changed my life more than I could ever imagine.

If you’re already a single parent you may understand how Ashley is feeling through all this chaos. But if you’re not a single parent, try to envision yourself in this situation. So if you’re a parent with a partner, imagine that your other half isn’t there to provide another income or to help you watch the kids. And if you’re not a parent, imagine that you have to take care of yourself and also a few children.

At one point you had a partner to help you handle everything that happened with all the kids – but now it’s just you. It’s pretty overwhelming right? Luckily your children understand the situation, but that doesn’t make life any easier. You try to sacrifice things for yourself and budget the best you can, but sometimes it means that you just don’t have it all together. Sometimes you won’t be able to buy their most desired toy to put a smile on their face on their birthday; or have a turkey on the table for Thanksgiving.

When you have a limited income, sometimes it means missing out on celebrating holidays. You might be able to make up for it a few days later but it doesn’t make it easier as a parent that you have to make your children wait until you get paid before they can get a birthday present. You know they’re not making a fuss because they don’t want you to feel bad, but they don’t realize that you already do.

Now you’re coming here for a food hamper, after trying to explain to your children that you’re struggling – without worrying them. You started by not checking off much, because you think there are people who need this service more. But then you’re touched when the staff try to encourage you to take more because programs like us are around to help people when they fall in these struggling circumstances.

You’re trying to stay strong because you hate when your kids see you cry. Also it would be weird to cry in front of a room full of strangers. However you can’t hold back when the volunteer finishes packing your hamper. Before coming here you had next to no food in your cupboards and fridge, but now you’re confronted with a bunch of possible meals. There’s a selection of anything from yogurt, to school snacks, to vegetables, to meat, and a wide variety of other products.

As you can see it’s pretty evident that we’ve touched Ashley’s life in a significant way. However what she doesn’t realize is how she’s touched the lives of the people who work at our program. Her tears of joy show the volunteers that though each task is small, it has an irreplaceable impact on a person’s life. This single mom has come to us with no idea what to expect, and leaves us without enough words to thank us for all we’ve done.

How?

September 20, 2011

One of the big questions we get is “how do I get a hamper?”

It’s a good question.  If you go to a hundred food programs across the country, you will likely have a hundred different experiences.  Each  place is different; there is no standard, but there are similarities.

A while ago, we managed to get our hands on a nice camera, and the staff here were kind enough to take on starring roles in our own re-enactment of getting up the courage to walk through our door, talk to a staff person and get a hamper.  Thanks to Nadir for the camera work, Melissa and Michelle for their acting skills and our volunteers for providing some background.

Take the example of Andrew, who Melissa blogged about last week.  This is likely pretty close to what he would have experienced when visiting our program.  On average we serve about 140 families and individuals each day we are open. Without the hard work of our volunteers and donors we couldn’t do it.

So, we’re obviously not going to win any Oscars, but we hope this video answers some of your questions.

Here are a few things to consider:

The lobby can often be very busy.  How would you feel having this conversation in front of a room of strangers?

Our hampers vary, sometimes a lot.  Is that box of food something you would want to share with your family? What foods do you wish we had that aren’t there?

In the video it’s winter.  How would you get to us if you didn’t have a car or bus fare?  We are here.  What if you lived here?  Kind of a long walk isn’t it?  I hope you have warm boots. Even in summer it’s not a treat.  When it’s really hot out, sometimes it’s worse.  Sunstroke, frostbite or hunger. It’s not an easy choice.

Stay tuned for some more stories from people who have used our program. As you read them, keep this video in the back of your mind.  Each one of them will have gone through this process, sometimes many times, over many years.

Preparing a meal for friends

April 14, 2011

Rupert's working in the lobby before we open the doors for the day. Soon this space will be full of people waiting for food hampers.

When the doors open at eleven a big rush comes through our building. A large number of patrons enter to pick up food hampers, and the warehouse fills up with more people to pack and sort through food. For me this all happens in between answering the phone, explaining the program to first time visitors and trying to figure out how best to accommodate different special diets and requests. But the end result is walking back and forth from my desk to the warehouse between 11 and 4:15 to hand in food slips into a waiting wooden box, where they will be picked up by an awaiting volunteer hamper packer.

This afternoon, we’ve just received a large group of people who just took the number 18 bus here.  There are a few single people, a woman with a stroller and a couple who are here for the first time. Every half hour to an hour we get another bus, and the people who walk, drive, bike or get a ride are often who we serve in between.

When requests slow down we often yell out to the warehouse to let our volunteers know there is a hamper available, because they are often filling time by doing another task in the warehouse. Some volunteers answer back more enthusiastically than others. Take Connie for example, in this situation when the slip drops into the empty box she’ll calls out “Haaamperrrraama!” (more…)

Intake process: referrals

December 20, 2010

Today I would like to add a few things to Melissa’s blog post (here) about some of the ways people can get additional help from other organizations in the region.

First of all I would like to mention that we are one of the busiest programs in the region and also probably most of Ontario. Last year was the busiest year in the history of House of Friendship, with over 33000 emergency food hampers going to 9959 households. In total over 22000 people shared the food in our hampers.  This year has been busy as well, and so far we have been giving out an average of 134 hampers a day, Monday to Friday.

Each day, these average 130+ families come in and go through our fairly brief intake process.  To recap on Melissa’s post, basically we need to know your name, birth date and address to register you in our database. We want to make sure when a person walks into our program they don’t leave empty handed.  We don’t ask for proof of income, but for statistical reasons we do ask what their source of income is. Trust is a very important part of the process.

Sometimes people are frustrated and since they are going through some rough times, they don’t feel comfortable sharing information about their current life situation and what they are going through. That is why our program made the registering process as straight forward and helpful as possible.  The main way we offer help, other than food that is, is through referrals. (more…)