Food for Thought Blog

Local Program works with The Food Bank to Ensure No One Goes Hungry

November 5th, 2020Agencies

March. The month that changed it all. While we continue to see and feel the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, none of us could’ve predicted them.  

The pandemic has changed the way we live, work, and interact; with many people in Waterloo Region feeling the added stress of job loss, limited budgets, and illness and struggling to put food on the table.  

From March to August 2020, there was a 30 per cent increase in emergency food assistance in our community, with 1,301 new households accessing food assistance for the first time and nearly 38,000 food hampers being distributed. 

Many of the community programs and agency partners we work with – as part of the Community Food Assistance Network – were asked to temporarily close due to COVID-19 to help ensure the health, safety and well-being of the community.  

One agency that continued to operate was the Sunnydale Community Centre. They were one of 30 vital service programs that remained open, albeit with some significant changes. They implemented additional health and safety practices to further reduce the risk of exposure to the community and had the additional capacity to support increased need.  

Founded in 1999, in partnership with the House of Friendship, Region of Waterloo, Lakeshore South Community Association (formerly Sunnydale Community Association) and many community partners, Sunnydale Community Centre focuses on improving the quality of life and well-being for residents of the North Waterloo community. 

Located in a culturally diverse community which is home to many new immigrant families and many living on low income, the Sunnydale Community Centre is a gathering place where neighbours come together to learn, celebrate and access a variety of programs and services. 

Community Refocuses as COVID-19 Reaches Region

But that all changed in March. As COVID-19 forced people indoors, staff and volunteers at Sunnydale Community Centre were figuring out how to continue supporting their community.  

“When COVID-19 happened, we saw an increase in the need for food assistance, from about 50 families each week to more than 100,” said Ummulkheir Mohammed, Community Development Worker, Neighbourhood Food at Sunnydale Community Centre. “It became clear very quickly that we needed to figure out how to continue food distribution while following the rules and maintaining dignity for the community members.” 

To accommodate the change in how food was distributed to the community, The Food Bank began providing pre-packed non-perishable and perishable hampers as well as a selection of frozen items that could work for both small and larger families.  

“If it wasn’t for The Food Bank, we wouldn’t have had food to distribute,” shared Mohammed. “The Food Bank acted quickly, giving us as much food as they could.” Adding the hampers were often full of fresh fruit and vegetables. 

Mohammed stresses that having access to food is a human right and these hampers showed people how valued and important they are. “Poverty makes us feel unwanted, under-valued and not important,” she added. “Being able to alleviate that portion (food), let’s people know their circumstance is not their fault.”