Food for Thought Blog

Community Collaboration Provides Essential Services during Pandemic

November 8th, 2020Awareness, Stories

When social services, businesses, and community leaders work together, incredible things can happen. Collaboration between these sectors streamlines the supports, services, and programs available as well as helps to improve the overall health and well-being of the community and its residents.

The importance and value of collaboration was highlighted earlier this year as the world, and our community, faced COVID-19 and the ongoing state-of-emergency.

In response to COVID-19, The Food Bank of Waterloo Region in partnership with the Region of Waterloo Community Services and the Public Health Department activated the Community Food Assistance Network Pandemic Business Continuity Plan, ensuring continued delivery of essential services throughout Waterloo Region.

“There is an old phrase that says we are better together than we are on our own,” said Douglas Bartholomew-Saunders, Commissioner, Community Services at the Region of Waterloo. “When you bring a group of community partners together, there is so much synergy and a greater ability to problem solve.” Adding “community collaboration and partnerships is the answer to dealing with community-wide issues.”

“Taking a collaborative, systems-level approach really helped us manage this challenge and unprecedented situation,” said Wendi Campbell, CEO, The Food Bank. “By working together to activate the pandemic plan, we were able to mobilize local resources to continue the delivery of essential services, such as food, while protecting the health and safety of our staff, volunteers and community members.”

As the key coordinator of food services within the Community Support Control group, The Food is responsible – in a pandemic situation – for ensuring consistent availability of food to the most vulnerable in our Region, particularly those impacted by the pandemic.

“The Food Bank provided exceptional leadership in the food services table and the control group,” shared Bartholomew-Saunders.

In addition to the incredible leadership, The Food Bank also coordinated the many players in our community who have a role in food services. “With multiple agencies in our community focused on food, there was the potential for service delivery to become fractured, but that wasn’t the case at all during this pandemic and that comes down to the work of The Food Bank,” said Bartholomew-Saunders. “Everything was very well coordinated, every part of the region was covered and everyone who called in, their needs were met.”

Throughout the pandemic, The Food Bank acquired, coordinated, and distributed food offers from a variety of food industry partners, retailers, and farmers. “Rather than the region trying to figure out how these offers fit into the system, they were handed over to The Food Bank for distribution, making it a lot easier for the region,” shared Bartholomew-Saunders.

In the first 12 weeks of COVID-19, which wrapped up on June 8, The Food Bank – in collaboration with the Region of Waterloo, Bingeman’s and their many vendors – provided 61,330 meals. In addition, The Food Bank acquired, coordinated and distributed 1,195,756 pounds of food to the 30 vital service programs operating as part of the Community Food Assistance Network Pandemic Business Continuity Plan.

The pandemic plan provided the critical framework necessary for community partners to successfully work together, but Bartholomew-Saunders stressed, The Food Bank’s flawless organization and preparedness helped ensure a successful roll-out. “It appeared The Food Bank was ready to go as soon as we said we’re on. Any issues were quickly responded to and dealt with. Wendi and the team did a great job of using the opportunities presented to address issues and explain how the system worked.”

And while there is still work to be done as we look ahead and beyond COVID-19, the importance of collaborating can’t be ignored. “We can do so much more when we work together than when we sit in our offices without consulting. Working together and collaborating is key to any successful outcome for the community,” said Bartholomew-Saunders.