Food for Thought Blog

Volunteer Profile: Meet Vince

December 17th, 2019Awareness, Stories

After a successful career in the insurance industry, Vince Ryan was looking for something that would allow him to get his hands dirty, make a difference in the community and keep him busy during retirement.

“I spent my career – nearly 40 years – working in insurance and managing projects,” shared Vince, former Assistant Vice-President, Individual Strategic Initiatives at Sunlife. “When it came time for me to retire, I was looking for something where I could get my hands dirty because it’s different than how I spent my career.”

In 2017, Vince began volunteering at The Food Bank as a brand ambassador, where he could be found at local events and grocery stores accepting food and fund donations. These days, he volunteers as food support in the warehouse, where, as he says, he “moves boxes from A to B”. Food support volunteers are an important part of warehouse operations as they manage the flow and reduce backlog during food sorting events and ensure all donations are organized and accurately tracked in our inventory system.

Although Vince has always been aware of the purpose and goal of The Food Bank, it wasn’t until he became a volunteer that he truly started to understand the scope and impact of the operations, likening us to Amazon.

“The amount of food that moves through this place is astounding. It’s not what you think it is; it’s a warehouse operation that starts one can at a time and ends up with a skid full of soup, beans and sauces,” he explained. “The process to do that and to do it right is staggering. It’s like a mini-version of Amazon.”

While our primary focus at The Food Bank is to provide much needed food to the 34,552 men, women, and children in Waterloo Region who access food assistance, we also work with provincial and national partners to accept and redistribute food to smaller food banks throughout Southwestern Ontario, providing a great variety of nutritious food to more people and helping to reduce waste.

In 2018-2019, more than 4,761,715 pounds of food was distributed to 100+ community programs and agency partners.

“I am constantly amazed at how much food goes through this place and I don’t see it all,” explained Vince. “I can’t imagine the needs of people in Waterloo Region being met as effectively as they are without The Food Bank. It would be unbelievable if each of the front-facing organizations had to manage the food acquisition process separately.”

Volunteering has provided Vince with the unique opportunity to not only learn first-hand about the impact of The Food Bank, but to also work hard and give back to his community.

A big aha moment for Vince was discovering The Food Bank isn’t just about cans of soup, jars of peanut butter and spaghetti. “In hindsight it seems obvious, but before I started helping, things like personal care and cleaning products, baby food and diapers just weren’t in my mental picture of items The Food Bank handled.”

In addition to learning more about the products The Food Bank accepts, Vince was also surprised to learn about the size of the Community Food Assistance Network. “I didn’t realize the size and scope of the network of community programs and agency partners across Waterloo Region that work together to provide food and other necessities for their customer-facing programs.” Adding that “it’s comforting to know The Food Bank is part of a large team of individuals providing support for those who find themselves in need.”

When asked about his experience volunteering at The Food Bank, Vince describes it as rewarding. “When I see the amount of food The Food Bank provides – both locally and to other food banks throughout Southwestern Ontario – I’m part of that and it makes me feel good.”

If you are interested in volunteering at The Food Bank, visit thefoodbank.ca/volunteer.