Posts Tagged ‘food systems’

Can this be true: are we this wasteful?

February 16, 2011

On January 17 The Record and Guelph Mercury featured an article (here) by Jennifer Bain titled “Canadian Waste Land: Canada is a nation that squanders its food. Nearly half of our food becomes garbage”. The article brought to light a bunch of disturbing facts regarding Canadian food consumption, or lack thereof. After reading this article I thought it would be a good idea to share some of the facts mentioned in this article. My hope is that we all take a few minutes to reflect on our “waste” and hopefully persuade ourselves to change how we use food. (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…)

Hunger Count 2010

November 19, 2010

This  spring I wrote about our work in March and the answers I supplied for the annual Hunger Count survey (read it here).  Well, the national stats have been tabulated and Food Banks Canada have released the official Hunger Count report, as well as a nice video summary.


Eat the math. A tale of two cities…

April 13, 2010

The Stop Community Food Centre is an amazing program in Toronto that we have had the opportunity to visit twice in the last five years.

Their website describes their growth from one of Canada’s first food banks into a “thriving community hub where neighbours participate in a broad range of programs that provide healthy food, as well as foster social connections, build food skills and promote engagement in civic issues.”

They have a real community atmosphere, and their facilities are welcoming friendly spaces that include “community kitchens and gardens, cooking classes, drop-in meals, peri-natal support, a food bank, outdoor bake ovens, food markets and community advocacy.”

This past summer, when we went for our last tour, we were all impressed by the new programs they had added since our previous visit (namely their gorgeous Green Barn), and their commitment to making a difference in the lives of the people coming to their centre and living in the city.

One initiative that they were just in the process of rolling out was Do The Math a web-based excercise that lets people put themselves in the shoes of a Ontario Works recipient trying to budget for a month.  I recommend you do it and share it with everyone you can! It’s a very eye-opening exercise in futility that reveals the brutal choices tens of thousands of people have to make each day in order to survive.

To highlight these choices and how hard their consequences, (i.e. food insecurity and hunger) can be each day they have challenged some high profile Torontonians to see how far they can stretch an emergency food hamper from the Stop and to talk about it on a collective blog.

So far the participants have expressed thoughts and experiences that we often hear at our program from new volunteers, new staff and first time visitors.  They’re overwhelmed by the level of need and the challenge that accessing and using emergency food can be.  In the Toronto Star yesterday  Dr. David McKeown, the Toronto Medical Officer of Health identified the lack of choice as a major difficulty for him, stating:

“Food is a very important part of our life and I didn’t get to eat any of the things that I enjoy. In work settings, and family settings with friends, I couldn’t join in with the food that was part of the events. So there is a sense of isolation that you get when you are not able to be a part of what others who have more resources are enjoying. Food is very much a part of our family and cultural life.”

Hunger is a complicated issue and there are a lot of misconceptions, stereotypes and judgements that get mixed into most public debates about how to address it.  Some of the comments made by Toronto city councilor Joe Mihevc,  at the press conference that kicked off the challenge, highlight the need for a better, broader discussion about the issues.

In fact, Mihevc’s entire family took part in the challenge.  In the Star one of his daughters talks about how her parents used drop in meal programs to help stretch their hamper a little further, stating, “I wasn’t really hungry but that’s because my mom and dad let my sister and me eat before they ate.”

Poverty and food insecurity present you with many stark choices and force you to prioritize.  Visit the dentist or buy a winter coat?   Pay the hydro or the rent (and get evicted later anyways when they shut off your hydro)?  Go hungry so your kids can eat today or all go hungry together later when all the food is gone?

Are these the choices that people should have to make?

What is a healthy food system? And why are people hungry?

March 29, 2010

Back in November I was fortunate to take part in the Waterloo Region Food Summit, organized by the Waterloo Region Food Systems Round Table (which I am a part of).

A lot of people took part in the two day event, sharing their ideas and hopes and energy to improve our food system and create awareness of some of its current problems.  It resulted in a final declaration as a call to action and local people are currently spreading the word and working towards achieving the goals they set out in it.

If you’re interested in getting involved contact the Food System Roundtable and check out the discussion forum which is always full of great information and links to great initiatives.

Aside from planning, meeting, and organizing, part of the lead up to the day involved talking to local people about their struggles with food insecurity, resulting in the excellent Food Summit Story.

What are your priorities for our local food system? And how can we ensure that people do not go without?