Food for Thought Blog

In Challenging Times, Connections Matter

November 5th, 2021Agencies

Since 2020, Brittany Kulchar and Christina Campbell have been working with The Food Bank of Waterloo Region to adopt additional health and safety practices so Carizon’s neighbourhood programs could continue to provide food assistance. When the COVID-19 pandemic reached Waterloo Region, Carizon and other community programs and agency partners – part of the Community Food Assistance Network – were supported to continue their emergency food programs and maintain an in-person connection with community members.

As Brittany and Christina explain, even in challenging times the Community Food Assistance Network is here to meet the need.

Interviewer: Can you tell us about yourself and your role in Carizon’s programs?

Brittany: My name is Brittany Kulchar, I am a Community Service Supervisor working for Carizon, an organization that specializes in children’s mental health supports and community development programs that support families to thrive in their communities.

Christina: My name is Christina Campbell, I am a Community Development Worker working for Carizon. As part of the Community Food Assistance Network, Carizon is supported by The Food Bank of Waterloo Region to host weekly emergency food hamper programs in the Paulander and Erb West neighbourhoods. My responsibilities include coordinating the emergency food hamper program for the Paulander community.

Interviewer: Why is it important for Carizon to be part of the Community Food Assistance Network?

Brittany: Our emergency food distribution programs can be the reason we first connect with community members and where referrals to Carizon’s broader mental health and wellbeing services are made.

Christina: We work alongside community members in the Erb West and Paulander neighbourhoods to run food assistance programs, to build upon existing community strengths and assets, and to create bridges that bring other service providers into the local area. In many ways we build community around food.

Interviewer: How does a food assistance program relate to Carizon’s mental health and wellbeing services?

Brittany: Carizon’s staff team can alleviate anxiety and offer reassurance to community members by providing a local food assistance program and referring individuals and families to other vital supports. Maintaining contact with community members keeps us properly informed and aware of what local needs and interests are. Since the pandemic began, our food assistance programs have enabled us to meaningfully curate services in the communities we support.

Christina: For Carizon’s services to be successful, it is important for us to have daily interactions with community members. Before the pandemic, our food assistance programs met a significant need in the community and were one of the many opportunities we had to connect with community members. When COVID-19 hit, stay-at-home orders came into effect, our food assistance programs became the only opportunity we had to safely meet our neighbours in-person. In the most challenging of times our food assistance programs are essential to connecting community to the supports they need.

Interviewer: What does being a part of the Community Food Assistance Network mean to you?

Brittany: COVID-19 has really increased the need for food supports in the communities we serve. We have seen the need for food assistance double since the start of the pandemic. It feels good, to be part of a Network that can support us to meet an increasing need for emergency food assistance.

Christina: We have had support from The Food Bank of Waterloo, one of two food banks leading the Community Food Assistance Network. The Food Bank of Waterloo Region is supporting us, and because of their support we have been able to successfully adapt our emergency food assistance programs. Even as we had to relocate our services, we were able to provide emergency food assistance from an outdoor location and did so using one of The Food Bank’s refrigerated trucks.

Interviewer: When safe to do so, what is something you are looking forward to reintroducing to your programs? What do you hope continues?

Brittany: We are looking forward to offering more in-person programming. We hope to once again be able to safely cook with the community and to sit down and share a meal together.

Christina: In the meantime, food is such a powerful connector. As we have seen throughout the pandemic, food brings us together in so many meaningful and essential ways and we are so grateful to be a part of the Community Food Assistance Network that allows us to meet the need(s) in the neighbourhoods we support. We know that we will continue to connect with community because we are a part of the Community Food Assistance Network.