Posts Tagged ‘guest blog’

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…)

Can 30 Minutes be Life Changing?

February 20, 2015


“This challenge has motivated me to get outside and do something every day. It was especially awesome convincing family members to go with me so it doubled as bonding moments.” Bethany M.


“It helped me discover the many ways I can dedicate at least 30 minutes in a day to my health even if it was only 10 or 15 minutes at a time. Thanks for helping me get back in motion!” Carol G.


“I lost 8 pounds this month and the 30 for 30 kept me SO motivated.” Dagmar K.


“I feel so much better every morning after I do my 30 minute Power Walk and I get way more done in a day. It was great fun and I’m SO full of Life!!” Rita R

So many stories and inspiration have come from the 30 for 30 Fitness Challenge.

Three years ago I quit a long term corporate career to follow my passion and launch my business, SO Full of LIFE Fitness and Wellness. I knew I wanted to connect with the community in a meaningful way but did not know where or how I was going to do that. I was honoured to be introduced to House of Friendship, a charity that aligned with my values and their mission statement “Building a healthy community where all can belong and thrive” resonated with me in a very strong way.

As my business was growing, time was not at a premium, but I wanted to lend my support to House of Friendship. So the idea of the 30 for 30 Fitness Challenge was hatched bringing my vision of changing lives out to the community. The challenge, introduced twice a year, has people register for $10 and commit to doing 30 minutes of heart raising activity for 30 days allowing 4 days of rest (on your honour and no homework is checked…wink wink). At the end of 30 days registrants have many opportunities to win great prizes including free personal training from yours truly!


What started as a way to get people active and raise money has turned into so much more. Many fantastic businesses in the community started donating amazing prizes and people began registering in order to make donations to support a great cause. Stories of better health, connection to the community and to family and friends have emerged. At the end of each challenge, participants can join together for a fun wrap up event and draw names for prizes. To date the Challenge has awarded over 50 prizes and raised over $2500 with a goal of $10,000!


Want to get in on the fun? Please email to get on the list for the next 30 for 30 Fundraiser starting June 1st, 2015. Who knows, you might get healthier, connect with friends and family, win great prizes and feel the joy in helping others in our community BELONG AND THRIVE.

Contact Sandra at for more information.

House of Friendship Votes: What Does Your Community Think?

June 9, 2014

Today I am pleased to share a guest post by Fariba talking about her experience in the community and her hopes for the involvement of the community with the democratic process.

House of Friendship encourages you to vote for a poverty free Ontario

1. Tell me a bit about your work at House of Friendship.  What is your role?

I am a community outreach worker at Sunnydale Community Centre and my main role is to support low-income families with children, who live in my catchment area.

2.Who are some of the people that you might work with in a typical day?

Single moms with children, youth in the community, immigrant families old and new (refugees, new-comers), students, and visitors.

3. Do you vote?  Why?

Yes, I see voting as a fundamental democratic right which keeps me connected to the political process and  allows me to  express my opinion and address my concerns with politicians and the elected representatives in my community.

 4. What does the word democracy mean to you?  How would you define democracy in our day to day life as a community?

As its roots in Greek language the word democracy for me stands for “the government by people”.  That means all the people should be able to have their say in one way or another in everything that affects their lives and it’s not only limited to participating in voting but also expressing ideas and concerns on decisions and policies in all levels of government (federal, provincial and municipal).

5. In the communities you live and work in, do people engage with the democratic process?  Do they feel they have a voice?  Do they feel like they have power?  Why?

In my communication with members of communities that I am in contact with, the subject of politics is not a favorite topic. The most common concern raised is that people don’t feel they have a voice or that their input will be valued, and there are several reasons behind this kind of thinking.  To name some:

  1. Negative and painful past experiences with politicians and government in their original country
  2. Lack of knowledge of the Canadian political system and their individual social and political rights
  3. They feel their issues are ignored/not addressed during political campaigns

6. What barriers (if any) exist that get in the way of people participating in the democratic process at any level?  Why would someone in the community that you work with decide to vote, or decide not to?

Language barriers plays an important role in preventing the immigrant voters obtaining knowledge and information, which affects the development in interest and sense of purpose to vote.

Sometimes the location of the polling stations and the limited time/resources to get there is voiced as a barrier as well.

Those who decide to vote are mainly motivated by hope for positive change and want to support the candidate/party that address their concerns.  Also, the same reason of negative past experiences and the inability to exercise their rights in their country of origin, motivates many more to value and practice their rights in Canada and vote.

7. What would you like to see happen on Election Day in your community?

What I like and hope to see in all communities is more and more participation in voting and political decision-making in Canada


Vote For The Community You Want to See

June 5, 2014

Today I am pleased to share a post written by House of Friendship Chaplaincy Director, Michael Hackbush.

House of Friendship encourages you to vote for a poverty free Ontario

The Golden Rule is something aspired toward by most world religions. Put simply this is “do to others as you would have them do to you.”

This can be an approach to dealing with conflict in your own life and family, it can help you understand and approach problems in your work or business and it can help us ALL think about how to deal with problems we all face as a society.

Voting is one of many ways of expressing your values as an individual and when I consider who will get my vote on June 12th I will be measuring each party’s position based not on what I’ll get out of it but on what impact said platforms will have on my neighbours.

That’s because, a simple way that The Golden Rule is monetized (that is, how it is given a dollar value) is through taxes and how we collectively decide to spend money through our government. Funding for schools, hospitals, roads, community centers and unemployment benefits are something we all pay for as individuals but which benefit all of us everyday either by using them directly, or indirectly when you consider the broader benefits to health and social stability.

Do employers want to interview candidates for jobs who are sick, stressed out and starving? Or do they benefit from hiring job seekers who have not had to make hard compromises between food or shelter during a period of unemployment. What about choosing dental care for their children, or medical services for themselves or their spouse?

When I hear tax cut I interpret that as taking away from my neighbours with the least means and giving to those with the most. That sounds subjective I know. I happen to work in the not for profit social services sector and so have a deference for my neighbours who are struggling to make ends meet. But the facts are that taxes are an investment in you, my neighbour, either directly, or indirectly.

The Dollars and Sense of Solving Poverty speaks of taxes as INVESTMENT. Every dollar spent gets back more both immediately in programs supporting people but also in the future return on that investment: healthier lives, cleaner air and water, safer communities for all of us.

In Tax is Not a Four Letter Word edited by Alex Himelfarb (find it online here) Alex mentions the fact that for all the talk about cutting the 2% of the GST, not once did people ask “At what cost?”. That cost is $14 Billion each year (to date exceeding $84 BILLION) of lost social investment.

I want to collectively work with you to build better hospitals, roads devoid of pot-holes, good schools and institutions, to create a community where all can belong and thrive. My taxes afford me the privilege to partner with my neighbour and create such a place. The facts demonstrate that taxes can do that.

So when the politicians speak of tax cuts, I will ask the question, “What will this cost us?” How will this benefit my neighbour?

I try to live by the Golden Rule. I invite you to do the same.

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.


“This will get us through till next week”

December 1, 2011

Working at the Emergency Food Hamper one day, I had the opportunity to briefly talk with a mother and her young daughter who were in need of a food hamper. When she had waited her turn and had reached the front desk, “this will get us through till next week,” was one of the first things she said to me.

Lots of people have come through our Food Hamper doors hoping that the food they receive here will carry them through their food shortage crisis, whatever that might involve. Last year alone, there were 32,042 hampers given out. Not having the ability to feed her own children was shocking to her. As she worriedly gazed at the far wall, I could literally see the thoughts that must have been swirling through her head. How long will this food emergency last for my family? Will I be able to pay this month’s rent and daycare costs while carefully balancing other necessities like food?

“My pay is coming at the end of the week, so we can make it through till then,” she hesitantly said to me while glancing down at the floor.

A lot of the people who walk into our lobby each day share similar stories with the staff here at Food Hamper.  To this day, I wonder how that woman and her daughter are doing. Did they make it through till next week? For many, lacking food is a temporary, yet potentially chronic, problem.  This is where the Food Hamper program steps in and tries to bridge this dangerous gap at least till next week’s pay comes in.