Posts Tagged ‘what’s in a food hamper’

Ten Days Of Food Hampers At The Food Hamper Program: Part Two

November 2, 2015

This is the second part of Chloe’s two part photo essay of food hampers at the Emergency Food Hamper Program.

In the first week, we saw the change of items from day to day as new items came in, and other items ran out. This post covers a busier period of time where we had different items in, and had to steward our resources carefully to avoid running out.

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Week of August 17th-21st

Every day these items were given out: One kilogram of meat, five pounds of potatoes, one can of soup, cauliflower (either as a choice or as the fresh vegetable given out that day), onions (either a bunch of green onions or a cooking onion), two boxes of Kraft Dinner, one jar of peanut butter (choice on size and flavour), one can of beans in sauce, a dessert of some kind (pound cake, cinnamon bread or individually wrapped cookies), bread (one or two depending on the day, various kinds), one carton of juice (various flavours, between 1L-1.75L), one container of Becel margarine (different flavours, between 1-2lbs), and one litre of milk.

Monday

  • Hampers up to that point in the week: 51
  • Hamper extras: One can of black olives, one can of corn, one can of peaches, one bag of Potato Thins crackers, two packets of Minigo yogurt, ½ a dozen eggs
  • Window extras: Choice between an avocado or lentil casserole, one watermelon, six ears of corn
  • Total Daily Hamper Count: 136

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Living Inside The Box: Menu Planning For Food Hampers, vol. 2

August 11, 2014

Here is the second installment of Sarah and Jessica’s work thinking through the options and dilemmas of a food hamper for a single person. Two weeks after their first hamper, they packed a second one with very different results. The theme of their menu this time around is food monotony–a topic discussed elsewhere on this blog.7031c072416a8ed12eb10eea4bb9_Content

Sarah: Once again, Jessica and I were required to pack a single person’s hamper and create a meal plan to sustain us for—fingers crossed—five days. We received a lot of food in the first hamper, and so it didn’t seem like this would be a difficult task. However, once the hamper was packed and presented to us, there was a major contrast between our previous hamper and the one that was now before us.

This hamper lacked basic categories of food. Unlike our past hamper, there was an absence of 1L milk, a squash, onions, beans, cottage cheese and vegetables. In addition, there was much less fruit, yogurt and bread. On the other hand, we did gain eggs in our hamper! But this hardly seems like an equal trade off. The amount of food received in the hamper clearly indicates the amount of donations received that week. Minimal donations plus ongoing community need left us with a rather small hamper. (more…)

Mo’ KD, Mo’ Problems

August 7, 2014

Our senses have a wonderful and wicked ability to take us different places. I can’t smell a certain kind of sugary black tea without remembering the years my family lived in Labrador. Certain bands remind me of an ex-girlfriend. For each of us these associations are different.

Food creates associations in powerful and sometimes surprising ways. I think that most privileged people like myself can classify their food associations as either positive or historical: special meals, backpacking abroad, or maybe a particularly unsatisfying meal from our past. For example: “shipwreck,” the leftovers-on-leftovers stew my dad used to make, which I haven’t been subjected to in probably close to twenty years. And this is an important point: privilege means choice; and it means that a lack of choice is self-imposed or in our rear-view mirror.

I spent a couple weeks canoeing last summer, some of it in Temagami, just before I started working at the Emergency Food Hamper Program. At the time I was unemployed. In other words, going on an extended canoe trip was not the smartest idea, finance-wise, but my friend and I committed to doing the trip as cheap as possible, right down to the food we packed into our waterproof barrels.

And so, because we could get the ingredients basically for free, we spent the week eating a strange mix of quinoa, lentils, sesame oil and soy sauce–except for a couple of cans of herring, which I recall thinking at the time was the most delicious food in the all time history of food.

Fortunately, I think, I don’t often eat that peculiar mix of sesame and soy sauce. On the one hand, it reminds me of a beautiful trip in Northern Ontario. But on the other hand, I am taken back to what it felt like to have no choice–by choice, mind you–and my stomach turns and constricts at the thought of eating more of it. You have to eat on a canoe trip if you want to keep canoeing, even if it’s what you ate for lunch, and for breakfast, and for supper, and for lunch, and for breakfast. It’s sesame and soy sauce all the way down! (more…)

Living Inside The Box: Menu Planning For Food Hampers

July 18, 2014
A House of Friendship Food Hamper Staple item - the banana box that we pack hampers in

One of the most common items in our warehouse are the banana boxes that we pack hampers in

Today, I would like to share something written by our two new summer students, who are with us, thanks to a grant from Service Canada.  Their first official day of work, I asked them to do a short exercise and share their thoughts in writing.  In a week or two, they will do the same exercise and they can compare and contrast their experiences.  I hope that in the process you will gain some insight into the difficult choices that our program participants face each day, and the hard decisions we have to make when deciding on how to distribute the many food items we receive as a donation.

Hello Sarah

Hi! My name is Sarah and I am currently studying Biochemistry at the University of Waterloo. For the past three years I have been volunteering with the House of Friendship Emergency Food Hamper Program as a food hamper packer as well as doing a variety of things in the warehouse. However, this summer I will be working as a summer student. With my prior volunteering experience I have regularly handed out food for many individuals; never to contemplate how they will be using and managing the perishable and canned goods they receive.

Hello Jessica

Hi my name is Jessica and I will be one of the Summer Special Project Assistants this year. I have recently graduated from the Social Service Worker Program at Sheridan College and have a passion for helping others. This fall I will be attending the University of Waterloo in the Therapeutic Recreation program. I look forward to my time at the Emergency Food Hamper Program this summer and being able to take part in this important and meaningful agency. (more…)

We have squash!

October 9, 2012

Fall just started, and that means we have starting to get our annual deluge of squash from local farmers. For the past while, people have been eligible to get up to one squash per person in their household, which is a pretty high quota for us. We have had many varieties, including familiar ones like butternut, pumpkin, and acorn, as well as some that may be new for people, like ambercup, spaghetti, kabocha, and turban.

The secret about squash is that although there are differences in the moisture and sugar levels, you can use most varieties for any squash recipe. Squash is great to give out in hampers because one or two will feed several people, or one person several times. Squash are nutritious, filled with fibre and antioxidants, and store for a long time in your pantry. To help people who come in for hampers take squash, which can be intimidating if you’ve never been taught how to cook one, we’re giving out lots of recipes and tips.

Our squash display in the lobby

If you’ve never tried to cook squash before, you’re in for a treat! It’s super easy to cook, as most recipes just call for roasted or mashed squash. Here are a few of our favourite squash recipes for you to try at home.

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The question box: how do we get the food we give out?

September 18, 2012

This is number two in a blog series around the question box we put up at the food hamper program. A few months ago, we put up a question box in our lobby so people could ask questions about the program that they were maybe hesitant to come up and ask the staff. Last time, we answered the question “why do you give out expired food?” Today I’ll be answering another question: “how do you get this much food?”

The question box in our lobby

The answer is simple: we are able to distribute as much food as we do because of the generous donations we receive from businesses and organizations in and outside Waterloo Region. We are also fortunate to have space and equipment to unload and store food safely. (more…)

Living on low income with diabetes

June 28, 2012

Imagine you’re a single mother working a minimum wage job, and you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Minimum wage is certainly not a living wage, and the kinds of food that one can afford working $10.25 per hour are limited, especially if you’re supporting yourself and your children. The more nutritious food you can afford to purchase will typically go to feeding your kids first, and you will have whatever is left. You rely on food hampers to ease the financial burden of buying food, but you can’t rely on them being filled with the options you need to manage your diabetes. What’s more, the current situation and stress of living on low-income while raising a family takes precedence over getting support to manage living with diabetes. It’s nearly impossible to make specialist appointments because of your work schedule and your kids’ school schedule, and bus fare can add up quickly.

Something we are constantly thinking about at the Emergency Food Hamper program is how we can better accommodate people’s dietary needs, whether they are for medical, religious, or other reasons. One common disease that affects many of our patrons is type 2 diabetes. As you can see from the example at the beginning of this post, people’s income level very heavily determines their level of health (for more on the social determinants of health, read Matt’s blog post here). This is particularly true of diabetes; in 2010, Statistics Canada found that women living on low income were more likely than their more privileged counterparts to develop the disease (read a news article on this here, and the actual report from Statistics Canada here). On top of this, the complications of living with diabetes are much harder to manage if you are living on low income. Because we try to provide the best nutrition options for people who come in for hampers, we have to pay attention to how diabetes affects people living on low income and try to accommodate that as best we can.

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What’s for dinner?

April 5, 2012

Michael, our BSW student, recently found himself thinking about how people might use the food we share each day.   This is what he had to say:

Photo via flickr user Nena B.

On a weekly basis the Emergency Food Hamper program will normally hand out hundreds of food hampers. The program relies on donations that go up and down and thus has to adjust the amount each family receives based on what is available and how busy they expect to be. This constant change can make it difficult to tailor to each program participant’s food requests. Allergies, family food preferences and varying culinary skills often have to be balanced with what is on hand.  Putting myself in the shoes of someone receiving a food hamper for one person, and using my normal diet and food preferences, I wonder how long could I make a food hamper last?

Today, if I got a hamper, breaking it down into three meals a day, and stretching it over three days would be difficult to accomplish.

Let’s start at the beginning.  This is what I have to work with:

  • 1 frozen bag of 5 chicken nuggets
  • Some sausages
  • 5 lbs. of potatoes
  • 8 oatmeal cereal pouches
  • 1 can of mushroom soup
  • 1 can of uncooked vegetables
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 Kraft Dinner box
  • 1 small bag of raw mushrooms
  • 1 can of tuna
  • 1 fruit cup
  • 1 can of pork and beans
  • 1 stick bread
  • 1 box of shortbread cookies
  • 1 1.3 L bottle of Sunny D beverage
  • 1 500 g Egg Creation carton
  • 1 small bag of frozen vegetables
  • 2 100g cups of yogurt
  • 3-4 pepperettes
  • 1 680g Heluva Good sour cream dip

Now, on to breakfast.

Normally I enjoy a bowl of cereal after I wake up. There are instant oatmeal pouches in the hamper but no milk to pour on it. The 1.3 litre Sunny D bottle would be good for breakfast but would not last me longer than three or four meals. A breakfast staple for me would be a cup of coffee, something that is frequently requested but that we rarely have to give out. I like scrambled eggs so the 500 grams of Egg Creation, which is a carton of egg whites, along with the onion and mushrooms I received, would last me about two breakfasts. I would also consume one of the two yogurt cups.

Moving on to lunch I could try to eat my one box of Kraft Dinner or maybe warm up the can of soup. Hopefully, if I wasn’t very thirsty from the morning, some Sunny D will be left over. Seeing as I am not terribly handy in the kitchen, warming up soup or making Kraft Dinner is maxing out my current culinary skills. If I didn’t have an oven,these foods, along with the can of vegetables, would be almost pointless. Future lunches would probably involve having to eat a can of beans in sauce which is not a favourite of mine, along with a can of tuna. Good thing I have a reliable can opener!

Finally, supper time would involve my cooking the five or six chicken nuggets and maybe half of the sausages I received. The crusty stick bread would also be on my dinner menu since it’s already a little on the stale side, and I would round it out with steaming some of the five pounds of potatoes.

Examining what is left in my hamper what would I do if a friend dropped by for a unexpected visit?  I would offer him or her a pepperette or two and maybe some leftover sausage. Not exactly ideal stuff for entertaining casual visitors. Also, it wouldn’t last very long and I really need to save it for the next few days. How about putting out some uncooked potatoes, mushrooms, and sour cream dip? Again, not really ideal. In reality I would probably not offer them anything, as I would be too embarrassed to admit that I was having a food emergency. If my friend provided me with food the last time I visited them, it would be a very awkward time together.

So, I’ve made it a day.  Not many leftovers remain.  If I want to stretch it out for another 2 days I have to start making some big compromises. I would find it very challenging and stressful to limit myself to just three meals a day.  There is not a lot of room for snacks and I’ve polished off most of my hamper in just one day.  I would have to carefully portion out the leftovers for lunch and supper and likely have to scrape by on day three with some of the frozen vegetables, a sausage if I have one left and maybe some pepperettes.  Not really an inspiring menu and not great fuel for a full day of school or work.  And all of this is assuming that after a stressful day or two of trying to sort out what and how much I should eat, I wouldn’t snack on something one day and have little left for the following day or two.  It’s not something I really want to think about too much, yet it’s a daily struggle for more than a hundred families each day walking through our doors.

One bowl at a time

December 8, 2011

Lately we’ve tried to share a basic ingredient for soups with all of our hampers: Campbell’s beef broth. It’s a perfect time of year to receive this type of donation because the days are getting colder and we’re all looking for inexpensive and satisfying meals to help keep us warm. Also having soup broth available allows people to make their own soup creation, instead of eating the various canned soups that we typically have on hand.

The soup broth was offered before people left with their hamper. but since many people are unfamiliar with how to use soup broth we included recipes tip sheets to help people learn ways to use this great ingredient. These tip sheets included anything from substituting soup broth for water when cooking vegetables or rice, freezing in ice-cube size portions to add moisture when re-heating leftovers, or recipes for homemade soup. But we’re not the only ones trying to share the warm feeling of soup with the community.

Janet Uffelman, Sandi McCrory, and Norma Weiner are the Soup Sisters. These women are working hard to bring more soup to Waterloo Region. After attending a social evening out in Toronto, for another branch of the Soup Sisters, these wonderful women decided to start a program branch of their own.

Their not-for-project project got off the ground near the end of September, after they were able to establish a partnership with The Culinary Studio. Now these girls are in full swing of producing many bowls of soup each month. Each bowl of soup is prepared in a state-of-the-art professional kitchen by people who are learning to develop their passion for cooking, and by those who are trying to pass on their acquired skills.

Their culinary efforts are going to support Reaching Our Outdoor Friends (ROOF) and Marillac Place. Both of these agencies are trying to provide shelter, supportive services and advocate for youth who are struggling with a variety of issues and seeking a better future for themselves and/or their children.

If you’d like to get involved in supporting of the work of the Soup Sisters, you can attend one of their evening events for a cost of 50 dollars. The evening runs in the style of a cooking class where participants will produce approximately 150 to 200 bowls of soup. But that’s not where the fun ends! After working hard to create all this soup, the evening will follow with the enjoyment of a light meal and a wine tasting. For information on booking an event, please click here.

However if you’re not able to attend one of their events, there are other ways to support the work that the Soup Sisters are doing. To find these, click here. And just remember: each donation, small or big, is one bowl closer to another satisfied belly in our community.

There’s something missing

October 4, 2011

Every time you go to the grocery store there is an abundance of possibilities that you can take home. But unfortunately for over 20 000 people throughout the year their grocery trips are limited, because they’re accessing a food bank.

Food banks generally operate almost exclusively on donations – donations of time, money and food. As a result, it’s not uncommon for programs such as ours to experience a few weeks or months without certain food items such as canned soup, cereal, rice, peanut butter, macaroni and cheese, canned meat, or canned beans. At the moment, three very significant products are on the top ten lists of most needed food donations. Any idea what they are? If not, click here to find the answer.

Unfortunately three of our four protein products are on the top of the list: canned meat and fish, peanut butter, and canned beans. This has dramatic implications on the overall nutrition of our hamper; and also how many meals patrons can make out of the food we have to offer. You may remember how important food items like canned meat are to our patrons; but if not click here.

Luckily the Food Bank of Waterloo Region has been getting in higher amounts of frozen meat products. This means that our program has been able to slightly increase our quotas since the beginning of August. Here’s an idea of how our quotas have changed:

Family Size

Previous Meat Quotas

Current Meat Quotas

One person

500 g

750 g

Two people

1 kg

1.5 kg

Three people

1.5 kg

2 kg

Four people

2 kg

2.5 kg

Though it’s a minimal amount, it has an impressive impact. For example single people generally got one choice of meat such as a bag of sausages or a few chicken breasts in the past. Now a single person meat pre-pack will include two choices of meat products or a larger chunk of meat. But let’s look at the nutritional implications of raising our meat quotas:

Family Size

Increases of servings

One person

2 servings (1 day)

Two people

4 servings (1 day)

Three people

4 servings (almost 1 day)

Four people

4 servings (half a day)

To read more about meat and alternative nutrition, please visit Canada’s Food Guide.

For many people more frozen meat in their food hamper is a welcome change! One of the things that we learned through the work of Jesse and Leah, our two summer students, is that many patrons would purchase more meat or seafood products if they had more money available. However, because of the increasing costs of fresh or frozen meat products, many individuals often use lentils or canned meat as the best alternative to still get protein in their diet.

But with our supplies running out and many people not having the flexibility in their budget to buy a can of beans, a jar of peanut butter, or a can of meat, what do they do? Sadly it often means that many people will be without that food group in their diet for a few days.

Going without canned beans or canned meat and fish has a smaller nutritional impact on our hampers, but it does interfere with meal planning. Now instead of many people being able to throw one of these choices into a casserole, they’re left scrambling to find another alternative to get meat in their diet and complete their meal. Both a can of beans and a can of meat or fish contain approximately a full days worth of meat nutrition for a single person. It’s easy to see how quickly the nutrition of a hamper can diminish without these necessary staples.

Not having peanut butter available also decreases a hampers ability to provide a good level of nutrition for meat and alternatives. It takes two tablespoons of peanut butter to provide one serving of meat and alternatives. For a single person who likely needs approximately two servings of meat for the entire day, a 500 gram jar provides about seven days worth of protein. Larger families typically receive a one kilogram jar of peanut butter. To break this down it means that two person hampers lose approximately seven days of protein; three person hampers lose approximately four and a half days of protein, and four person hampers miss out on approximately three days of protein. Without this staple food, many people are left without anything to eat on a sandwich for lunch or to spread on some celery for an afternoon snack. Click here to read about the significance of peanut butter to our patrons.

What do you eat for lunch each day?  Imagine opening your bag lunch and only having two slices of bread with some mustard and lettuce between them.

You can change this though! Please keep these food items, and any other that you typically enjoy in mind during the fall food drive. Each donation makes a meal and brightens someone’s day – sometimes more than you can imagine. Whether it’s a box of cereal or crackers, a can of pasta sauce, or a drinking box it’ll make someone’s life one measure easier. Each food item they receive is  one step closer to a healthier diet, or one less explanation to a child for why it’s not on their dinner plate. And as our recent blogs show, not having food is only one of the many situations that our patrons are encountering throughout their day.