Food for Thought Blog

Wendi Campbell: My First Food Drive

August 9th, 2019Stories

My first food drive!

Little did I know 10 years later I would land at The Food Bank of Waterloo Region and work with local, provincial and national partners to feed our communities and advocate for change.

There was no formalized Food Bank structure in Aurora (or the other parts of York Region where we all lived) but we knew there was a need – that we had friends and neighbours who were struggling during the holiday season. The Student Council, The Athletic Association and the Red & Gold Society decided, like so many groups of students before us and so many more that followed to organize a school-wide food drive. With the innocence of youth, we thought this was an amazing initiative. I’m sure it was appreciated but what we didn’t consider, and what is sometimes forgotten, is that people have been doing things to support the less fortunate in our communities for hundreds of years – churches have hosted dinners, neighbours have delivered food baskets, poor houses were opened in the dark ages to curtail rioting in the streets, governments found short term solutions that worked for some while many more struggled.

The Eighties put a name on this work – created some formality, policy and mobilized communities in a different way. Food Banks popped up across the country and continued the work of our churches and our neighbourhoods – feeding more people and changing the conversation about hunger.

Looking Ahead and Continuing to Innovative

Fast forward 30 years later – food banks are still strong and mighty community supporters – but they have changed with the changing needs in our communities. The conversation and delivery methods have changed.  No longer are we serving cans of tuna, bags of pasta and beans with various toppings. We have evolved with the changing food landscape – we provide fresh, frozen, nutritious foods, and opportunities to learn new skills and recipes. We create connections and programs to help improve lives – beyond a meal. With all of the changes in our world, the meal remains an essential first step to build community, ease tension and increase the health and well-being of our neighbours.

We’ve elevated the conversation –from the roots of Feed Ontario (formerly the Ontario Association of Food Banks) and our members camped out in doorways at Queen’s Park – to a growing national conversation that in recent years has guided election platforms, policy change, pilot projects and policy reform. The discussions continue, the problem is not solved but we are forever a different society because of the efforts of food bank staff, volunteers, community leaders and those kids who just wanted to hold a food drive to help their neighbours.