Food for Thought Blog
Monthly Donor to Receiving Food Assistance, One Person’s Story
Growing up on a farm in small-town Ontario, food has always been a big part of Joan’s life. She was raised to use food well, not waste it, and share it with others.
“I came from a modest, hard-working family, where I was taught to help neighbors in need,” said Joan. “They showed me what it meant to be a good neighbor, especially in times of need. Back then we didn’t have food banks or clothing drives, but we did have [small town] community that would come together to help each other when needed.”
It should come as no surprise that as an adult, food and helping people remain a priority for Joan. For her, being a good neighbor means supporting organizations that focus on the overall health, well-being and betterment of a community and its residents.
Community Means Being a Donor
Joan joined The Food Bank of Waterloo Region’s monthly donor community in 2014. She credits her upbringing, and her work with children and families as her motivation to give.
“I became a monthly donor (to The Food Bank) because of my work with children and their families,” Joan shared. “Aware of the support and services provided by The Food Bank, I often directed families to The Food Bank. The positive impact and reputation of the organization was well known amongst my colleagues.”
Throughout her time as a donor to The Food Bank, Joan helped to provide nearly 6,000 meals.
We all know that life doesn’t always go as planned. Little did Joan know that one day, she would need the help of her neighbors.
From Donor to Recipient
Following some unexpected challenges, Joan found herself navigating unfamiliar territory. Living on a fixed income and strict budget, Joan was finding it increasingly more difficult to find the money for groceries.
In February 2021 she received her first food hamper.
“A caring healthcare professional suggested accessing The Food Bank for support,” she explained. I called The Food Bank of Waterloo Region and was connected to the Emergency Food Hamper program at the House of Friendship’s* Guelph Street location,” said Joan.
While she admits, she wasn’t sure what to expect for her first visit, she received a warm welcome.
“The first time I received a food hamper, I cried. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a tough time for me, and I was at a low point,” she explained. “The first time I went in to register, I will never forget it, I was chatting with another individual and although we had different struggles, there was no divide. And I couldn’t help but think ‘how wonderful it was to be in a place with no stigma or judgement and to be treated with dignity and respect.’”
Joan has been receiving food assistance for about four months now, and she continues to be impressed with the variety of fresh, frozen, and non-perishable food. Each hamper fits her unique dietary needs with preferences accommodated.
“The Food Bank supports my vegetarian lifestyle,” she emphasized. I love that! It’s not simply cans, and boxes packed into the food hampers, there is more. The effort of the staff and volunteers and the generosity of donors shows. My experience of depending on others for food – though a new one – has been made positive because of the generosity of others.”
“I am often in awe,” she said. “Everything is in such good condition. I’ve received fresh pineapple to plant-based frozen burgers, it’s all just so helpful and appreciated.”
Despite her dietary restrictions, Joan is sure to use everything included in her hamper, ensuring nothing goes to waste.
“The luxury of going to the grocery store and buying everything needed for a particular recipe isn’t there right now,” she explained. “The good news is I love creating in the kitchen and the food hampers have led to some interesting, and I don’t mind saying, delicious recipes.
Giving Back Remains Top Priority
While she is currently unable to donate financially, Joan hopes she will return as a monthly donor in the future. In the meantime, she continues to support and advocate for The Food Bank. Whether it is sharing her culinary skills with the unique and delicious meals she creates from items in the food hamper, donating her skills and talents as a photographer to various events, or sharing her story.
Giving back remains a top priority for Joan, no matter how that looks. “I am a huge giver and there will certainly be a time when I return as a monthly donor. Food is essential to life, and to living, and so much more.”
If you are inspired by Joan’s story and would like to join Eat 365, our monthly donor community, please click here.
*The House of Friendship is part of the Community Food Assistance Network, a system of 100+ community programs and agency partners working together to provide food and other vital supports to people in need throughout Waterloo Region.