Food for Thought Blog
As We Physically Distance Social Bridging Matters
January 21st, 2022Agencies
During these challenging times, bridging social connections can matter as much as physical distancing and for the Bridges Centre at Glencairn Church, this has meant safely reopening to support those in need of emergency food assistance.
When the COVID-19 pandemic reached Waterloo Region in 2020, some community programs and agency partners – as part of the Community Food Assistance Network – temporarily closed to follow public health guidelines. Since then, programs have started to reopen and safely continue food assistance programs and maintain in-person connections with community members. As of September 2020, the Bridges Centre at Glencairn Church has been providing emergency food hampers to the surrounding community.
In many ways, the community programs and agency partners – part of the Community Food Assistance Network – can build a community around food and when providing emergency food assistance, also connect people and families to broader vital supports and services they may need. This is exactly what the volunteers at Glencairn Church intended 24 years ago, when creating the emergency food assistance program and providing opportunities for community members from diverse backgrounds to socialize, build-skills, and access a gently used clothing program.
Over the years, the Bridges Centre at Glencairn Church has welcomed residents in need of emergency food assistance from surrounding neighbourhoods and supported families and people from more than 35 countries.
Community Collaboration Helps Program Thrive
With the support of The Food Bank of Waterloo Region (The Food Bank), volunteers from the Bridges Centre at Glencairn Church have developed their services to offer community members choice by allowing them to self-select the food items that best meet their dietary and cultural considerations. This approach has created a greater sense of dignity for program participants and helped to foster conversation and connection with volunteers.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bridges Centre at Glencairn Church opted to close their program and refer community members to other services and supports within the Community Food Assistance Network. By September 2020, volunteers at the Bridges Centre at Glencairn Church were supported by The Food Bank to adopt additional health and safety practices so they could continue providing emergency food assistance. Now offering access to their program by appointment, the Bridges at Glencairn Church is once again connecting with community members, providing emergency food assistance, and safely nurturing social interactions.
Doris, a founding member of the Bridges Centre at Glencairn Church explains, “when we reopened it was as if we hadn’t left off with time in between. We reconnected with familiar faces to provide emergency food hampers and help our neighbours navigate these difficult times.”
The Bridges Centre at Glencairn Church started in 1997, and volunteers took the time to prepare and understand how they could support the community members in their community. They found space in their Church and eventually expanded to offer food and gently used clothing. By partnering with The Food Bank, the Bridges Centre at Glencairn Church was supplied with a variety of fresh, frozen, and non-perishable food items.
“If we didn’t have The Food Bank, we could not do what we do because we are all volunteers and the cost of procuring nutritious food items is so high. We are so thankful that we submit an order to have it fulfilled” explained Doris.
What started 24 years ago as a room providing non-perishable food items to community members in need of food assistance has evolved and grown into a community program within the Community Food Assistance Network. Supported by The Food Bank, the Bridges Centre at Glencairn Church is now providing a variety of fresh, frozen, and non-perishable food items alongside social connections that bridge community members to other vital supports.
Even in an era of physical distancing the Bridges Centre at Glencairn Church continues to connect community members struggling to afford basic necessities and nurturing their neighbours in the process.