Posts Tagged ‘food systems’

The changing face of food aid

June 3, 2013

Change is not an easy thing to face.

Sometimes changes are imposed from the outside, other times, you may feel that you are running in circles, achieving nothing and want to get out of the rut.  Maybe it’s time to go back to school, change your job, or just put a new coat of paint on things to brighten up your living room.  There are big changes, and not so big ones – but big or small, change is often hard for people and recognizing the need is rarely a straightforward job.

How do you know it’s time?

At our staff meetings at the Emergency Food Hamper Program, we sometimes find ourselves looking to the future of how we operate. We think about our impact as a program, and how our numbers have increased steadily since we first started giving out hampers. We think about the kind of community we’d like to be a part of. We talk about whether it would be better to have more warehouse space to give out more hampers, or more offices and a nice kitchen to help teach people food skills and increase the amount of anti-poverty advocacy we do.

At the House of Friendship, working with other organizations and people is a major part of our day.   We are always looking to volunteers, staff and community partners to help uncover a better community for all of us a little bit at a time. This is why places like the Stop, and its sister project, Community Food Centres Canada caught our eye—they offer a new way of seeing food aid, as more than simply emergency hampers. All across the province (and now the entire country) there are some fresh ideas developing and being nurtured by Community Food Centre’s Canada. They are trying to grow some change and set an example for how people can help communities build a better relationship to healthy food and advocate for a more just world.

What is a Community Food Centre? According to their website, it is:

“… a welcoming space where people come together to grow, cook, share and advocate for good food. CFCs provide people with emergency access to high-quality food in a dignified setting that doesn’t compromise their self-worth. People learn cooking and gardening skills there, and kids get their hands dirty in the garden and kitchen in ways that expand their tastebuds and help them make healthier food choices. Community members find their voices on the issues that matter to them, and people find friends and support. CFCs offer multifaceted, integrated and responsive programming in a shared space where food builds health, hope, skills and community.”

(more…)

Advertisements

Getting out of the business of food banks

May 21, 2013

Though sometimes when I’m working at the front desk it feels like a customer service job, we often remind ourselves here that we are not a business. When our numbers go up, it is not cause for celebration, but a time to reflect on the root causes of poverty in our community and why the amount of people who need food assistance increases every year. We are constantly looking at new ideas that could eliminate poverty, and one of those is to simply give people the money they need to live a healthy and fulfilling life. As a solution it might seem overly simple, but it really could work. As we’ve discussed here many times, when people have an adequate income money is saved elsewhere in social systems.

Today’s post is a guest blog, written by Sean Geobey, on the topic of eliminating poverty—and eliminating food banks–by giving people adequate income. Sean is a PhD Candidate in Environment and Resource Studies at the University of Waterloo and a graduate fellow with the Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience. His research focuses on social finance and its role in creating social innovation.

A food hamper from a few years ago for a family of three.

A food hamper from a few years ago for a family of three.

I am fortunate enough that I don’t rely on a food bank for my meals. I go to a grocery store near my home to pick up a few bags of fresh veggies, milk and meat when I’m running low. The hours are always convenient, and I can choose the right mix of food for my needs over the next few days.

Although I rarely think about it, having this freedom means a lot to me. It means that I can schedule my food around my work, social and family life. It means that I’m entrusted with the choice of setting my own priorities about what I put in my body. It means dignity.

Having a basic income that provides everyone in our community with enough money to meet their basic needs would extend this dignity to everyone. A basic income is a guaranteed minimum level of income support that everyone would receive. It would not be means-tested, eliminating the need for intrusive, demeaning and punitive interventions by social workers. The idea of a basic income has historically received support from across the political spectrum, including those on the right like Milton Friedman, Robert Stanfield and Hugh Segal to those on the political left like Martin Luther King Jr. and Ed Broadbent.

(more…)

What I’ve learned in a year at the Food Hamper Program

May 10, 2013

After almost exactly a year of working here, today is my last day at the Food Hamper Program. I am sad to leave the staff and volunteers here as I’ve formed some great friendships and learned a lot about the KW community, but I’m looking forward to new adventures, including travelling this summer and going back to school in September.

building_outside

I’ve learned a lot in the year that I’ve been here. Here are some things I’ll take away from my time.

There is no one kind of person who needs food assistance

I’ve learned that there is no one kind of person that comes to a food bank—there is a huge diversity of people who need food assistance, and they have taken many paths to get here. Many people face barriers to finding work and thus having an adequate income due to discrimination. Perhaps they identify as transgender, are a recent immigrant or refugee, or have a disability. I’ve learned that no one is on social assistance because they’re simply ‘lazy,’ but that there are a multitude of reasons people live in poverty, ranging from the kinds of jobs available to a lack of affordable childcare to health problems. Each person has their own story of why they are at the food hamper program.

The way we treat people living on low income needs to change…now.

I’ve learned that the way social assistance is set up helps no one, and a dollar added to social assistance is more than a dollar saved in other areas. I’ve learned that poverty and health are so closely intertwined that I’m not sure you can talk about one without talking about the other.  Most importantly to me, I’ve learned that eliminating poverty is the logical thing to do, not only from an ethical but from an economic standpoint. It makes far more sense to give people an adequate income and save money elsewhere in the system, especially in the health care and justice sectors. I have hope that others think this way. Though there is a long road ahead when it comes to poverty elimination, there are a lot of dedicated people making very good cases as to why poverty should be a priority for all levels of government moving forward.

I’ve learned all about foods I never knew existed

We receive all kinds of food donations. Before working here I had never seen chayote squash, bitter melon, chinese long beans, or lychee fruit. Now I could tell you what their main nutritional qualities are and how to cook them!

I am disappointed to leave the House of Friendship because it’s an organization I believe in. I’m proud of that the organization has decided to speak up on important issues, and advocate for a more just society. I decided to work here in the first place because, though I don’t believe food aid should have to exist, the program’s philosophy was in line with my own. I believe people coming in for food aid should not be policed, or asked invasive questions about their household finances. I’ve been lucky to be able to visit other House of Friendship programs and learn about the community building and advocacy that goes on at our community centres and residential programs as well.

I’ve been so privileged in the past year to work with dedicated staff and volunteers who believe in the program like I do, and who are working every day to create the kind of community they want to be a part of. I’ll miss it here.

Good things growing at Eby Village

April 19, 2013

House of Friendship is very enthusiastic about community gardens—we’ve got a big one at each community centre, a small garden here at the Emergency Food Hamper Program, and one is starting up this year at Eby Village!

Eby Village is a supportive housing building run by the House of Friendship. There are 64 tenants and the staff really try to foster a good sense of community. When I visit Eby Village I can tell everyone knows each other and they all get along really well.

To continue fostering a tight knit environment and friendly atmosphere, Eby Village is taking on an urban greening project this spring and summer. They have hired a part time staff person to coordinate, and there are already fifteen tenants who are meeting weekly to plan the garden. The plan is to make raised beds at the front of Eby for vegetables, and these will be high enough to be accessible for people who have trouble bending over. In the shady back area, they are planning a woodland garden, with pathways and lots of native plants. While the front area will be fairly active as residents grow vegetable plants, the woodland garden is meant to be a calm getaway that can reduce stress for residents.

An example of an accessible garden--high enough so people in wheelchairs and with other mobility issues can easily plant and weed.

An example of an accessible garden–high enough so people in wheelchairs and with other mobility issues can easily plant and weed.

I had the opportunity to talk with Allison, the supervisor at Eby, about why they want to start the garden. She says, “the urban greening project will provide tenants with the tools and opportunity to grow their own nutritious food, rejuvenate the urban space surrounding their building and develop together as a community.”

(more…)

Why does Waterloo Region need a food charter?

February 8, 2013

Before I started working at the Emergency Food Hamper program, I was very passionate about and involved with local food initiatives. I love community gardening and urban agriculture, going to the farmer’s market, and supporting local farmers. I’m still passionate about all of these things, but more and more I’m noticing that people on low income often don’t have the luxury of supporting local or organic food initiatives. Local and/or organic food is often more expensive and less convenient to purchase and prepare than conventional or processed food from the grocery store. I started doing research on the price of nutritious food versus how much a family makes on Ontario Works or even working a minimum wage job. I started to doubt whether supporting affordable nutritious food for people on low income and supporting local farmers were even compatible goals.

Food_Charter_word_cloud_resized

Because of my change in perspective, I was very interested when the Waterloo Region Food Roundtable, a group of citizens and people in the food industry who talk about food issues in the region, drafted a food charter. Waterloo Region Public Health started the roundtable in 2005, and their mission is to champion a vibrant and healthy local food system. They do this through networking and policy-making. 18 people sit on the roundtable and are from a variety of sectors, from the local farming community, to advocates for those living on low income, to academics and public health professionals. The idea is that if you get many people who involved in the local food system together around a table, you can have better conversations about local food issues leading to more sustainable and comprehensive food policies.

(more…)

Global conversation about food

September 1, 2011

“Food is one of life’s greatest pleasures and one of our most basic human rights. It’s important we all get involved in the debate about how to change the global food system so everyone has enough to eat today and in the future.” – Raymond Offenheiser, President of Oxfam. (Source)

This quote comes from an article posted on Oxfam that looks at an independent study done by GlobeScan that was collected from 17 countries around the world and a total of over 16 000 people. Each person was asked about their dietary habits and if anything has changed over the years because of the rising food prices, health changes, or any other influential factors.

Oxfam released this study on their website as part of their GROW campaign. This campaign is dedicated to promoting a better future for everyone, which starts by supporting solutions to solving hunger issues, and encouraging government to get involved in preserving resources or creating better policies. Basically the campaign is looking for people to get motivated NOW; instead of when the next disaster occurs. Their goal is to change things for the better, before food insecure situations get any worse. (Click here if you’re interested in joining their campaign.)

One of the results discussed in the survey looks at the fact that many people, in both rich and poor countries, are already reducing the quality and quantities of food they consume. As food prices continue to rise many people can no longer afford some of the foods they previously enjoyed in the past. Instead people in poorer countries are often accommodating to food prices by eating less food overall, eating cheaper food items, or eating a less varied diet. The study noted that women, specifically mothers, tend to change their eating habits more than other family members. You can read about this in more detail by clicking here.

There are a variety of reasons why many people are beginning to change the types and quantities of the foods that they typically consume. All of these are outlined in more detail in the article. However there are a few statistics that I want to share with you because I find them very interesting:

  • Percentage of people who have changed their diet because of rising food prices: 39% globally and 31% in the US.
  • Percentage of people who have altered their diet for health reasons: 33% globally and 49% in the US.
  • Percentage of people who are worried about the rising costs of food: 66% globally and 73% of those in the US.
  • Percentage of people who said that they sometimes, rarely or never had enough to eat on a regular basis: 20% of people globally and 8% of Americans.

Overall our statistics aren’t far off from many of the other countries in the world. Food prices and food security are an increasingly troublesome problem for a wider variety of people. You may remember some of the previous posts that we did on rising food prices back in May and June – but click here if you missed them.

Well to no ones surprise this is still a current issue in the news and something that I’m sure we’ll continue to experience as uncertainty about the global economy continues. Though food is necessary for human survival, we still have a long way to go to ensure equal access for everyone. Until we can find a solution to this long-term issue, food banks will continue to work diligently to provide all these individuals with a few days of food to help them temporarily overcome one of their many challenges.

Food connects us all

July 15, 2011

Are you a student interested in food (in)security planning on continuing/ beginning post secondary  schooling in the fall?  Well, if you are, you only have about two weeks to register for the 2011 National Student Food Summit.

It is being held at the University of Toronto and will feature keynotes from the United Nations World Food Programme, Campbell Company of Canada and a recent McGill University graduate who orchestrated the McGill food systems project.

So sign up and join your  peers in creating a blueprint for change.

It is organized by Meal Exchange which is a great organization that works to educate people and work to address the problem of hunger.  The Summit will be held this coming  August 5 to 7 and you can find out more by following this link here and by watching this video:

If you go we’d love to hear how it went and what you learned!

Waste challenge

May 20, 2011

With increased media attention on the issues of food waste and increasing food prices I’ve become more interested and concerned with my own food habits. Like everyone else, I’m trying to find ways to cut down my grocery bill and be a more effective shopper – without missing out on eating a (somewhat) healthy diet…and the occasional treats!

After reading an article in The Record back in January about food Waste, which you may remember from the posts that Matt and I wrote (if not, click our names to read the articles), I started following the online blog of Jonathan Bloom. His blog features links to many different articles that highlight issues around food waste; and lately he’s made a few mentions around the idea of “best-before” and “expiration” dates. (more…)

The side of potatoes you haven’t seen… and the rising cost of food

May 20, 2011

Annually House of Friendship utilizes well over 220 000 pounds of potatoes within all of our programs. Therefore a successful Potato Blitz campaign is important for many different programs, patrons and services. You may remember some of the stories Allison shared from various events of the Potato Blitz back in February, but don’t worry – I’m not here to repeat those. Instead I’m going to shine a new light on potatoes. We’ve talked about the nutrition of potatoes and how valuable potatoes are to the diets of our patrons, but we haven’t talked about the cost of potatoes. The cost of potatoes has a significant impact on the fundraising efforts of our Potato Blitz drive each February – and thus provides a glimpse at the side of potatoes we haven’t shown you yet! (more…)

One person’s trash is another person’s treasure

February 17, 2011

There is an old saying that one mans trash is another’s treasure.

If you talk to someone who lived through the great depression and the war that followed it in the 1930’s and 1940’s they might think nothing of carefully folding the wrapping paper from their birthday gift and saving it. They might cut off the bruises from an apple and approach canning and preserving in times of plenty as a sacred duty, on par with voting.

Talk to a younger person, in their 20’s and they may think nothing of throwing out a bruised or slightly over ripe piece of fruit. For them canning is something they don’t have time for.  And, depending on how and where they grew up, they may shudder at the thought of buying second hand clothes or picking through the trash at the end of someone’s driveway to grab some furniture, or an appliance that maybe needs a little bit of know how to get it working again.

Melissa posted yesterday about some recent work highlighting the wastefulness of society in general when it comes to food.  But, there is a flip side.  Waste is an important source of food for us. A lot of what the food industry and retailers determine is waste is a gold mine that helps feed the people who turn to us each day. (more…)