Food for Thought Blog

Christmas Hamper Program Helps Make Holidays Brighter

December 24th, 2020Awareness

The Christmas spirit is alive and well in Waterloo Region. Despite a difficult year, with many unexpected challenges, local community groups have once again come together to help make the holidays a little brighter.

The Christmas Bureau – organized by the House of Friendship, Salvation Army Kitchener, Salvation Army Cambridge, Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank, Wilmot Family Resource Centre, Woolwich Community Services, Cambridge Firefighters, and St. Vincent de Paul and supported by The Food Bank of Waterloo Region (The Food Bank) and Kitchener Conestoga Rotary Club – ensures people living on low income in our community have a Christmas meal to enjoy and gifts under the tree.

“Christmas is a time when the community comes together to provide a happy holiday season for those in our community who are struggling,” said Kate MacDuff, Network and Programs Manager, The Food Bank of Waterloo Region. “And it’s wonderful to see the collaboration between organizations in Waterloo Region to make this wonderful project happen.”

In a typical year, people and families would register in-person for the Christmas hamper and gifts. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an online registration and two call centres were set up at The Food Bank and House of Friendship facilities to support physical distancing of volunteers and staff. The call centre was led by staff and volunteers from the House of Friendship.

This year, 6,646 Christmas hampers were distributed, serving more than 21,000 people throughout Waterloo Region.

Annual Program Sees New Changes

One major change to the program is that households were given appointments at locations close to their homes to pick up cards and a choice of frozen protein (turkey or Halal chicken). These gift cards provided people and families with the flexibility and opportunity to shop for their own Christmas meal, making it perfect for them.

The House of Friendship partnered with St. Vincent de Paul (SSVP) conferences for distribution at several SSVP conference locations. In addition, Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank supported pick-ups at their main office and four other locations in Cambridge. The Cambridge Firefighters also distributed gift cards to families in need, using a drive-thru model to maintain social distancing.

In the rural townships, Wilmot Family Resource Centre and Woolwich Community Services provided 307 hampers to families, these included gifts, gift cards and frozen protein (turkey or Halal chicken).

The Salvation Army Kitchener and Cambridge worked together in November and December to pack and distribute toys to families in need.

The Food Bank also found new and unique ways to support the Christmas Hamper program. Along with storing the frozen proteins (turkey and Halal chicken), at our distribution centre, we also provided refrigerated vehicles to be used during the recent distribution days throughout Kitchener-Waterloo, to ensure the cold chain was preserved and food safety guidelines were followed. This year, to accommodate physical distancing and keep community members safe, the distribution of the hampers took place outside. In addition, The Food Bank provided space for the centralized call centre and support for the online, centralized Christmas Hamper database in Link2Feed.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has been isolating for many in our community, it has been an opportunity for the local organizations that make up the Christmas Bureau to work together to ensure this program continues in a very difficult year. Many families felt the support of their community this holiday season through the dedicated efforts of community organizations coming together to distribute Christmas hampers this year.