Food for Thought Blog

Stronger Together: Embodying Resiliency & Compassion Through a Community Crisis

April 7th, 2022Agencies

Across Waterloo Region, we are in the midst of a growing community crisis, fueled by the pandemic and a variety of societal factors. With a rise in unemployment, food insecurity, homelessness, mental health crises and drug addiction, residents in our community need more support than ever and the Community Food Assistance Network is stepping up to meet those needs. 

Comprised of 100+ community programs and agency partners, the Community Food Assistance Network has been working hard to provide hot meals and shelter. Boosting resource sharing, expanding services, and lending a helping hand to other agencies and programs when needed, we are proud to collaborate with the many hardworking individuals who make the Community Food Assistance Network a trusted and welcoming support system.

Every agency partner and community program has pivoted and enhanced programming to step up and meet community demand head-on. Showcasing the resiliency and hard work of the Community Food Assistance Network, here’s a look at how a few partners and programs have altered their services to address growing demand.

Cambridge Shelter

Across Waterloo Region, COVID-19 has had dramatic impacts on the lives of many. For vulnerable populations who have tested positive for COVID-19, accessing shelter and isolating from peers and loved ones can be especially difficult, adding to greater risk of community transmission.

Addressing these concerns, Cambridge Shelter expanded operations with the creation of the Isolation Unit, a safe space for individuals who have tested positive to recover from COVID-19 and receive daily meals.

Not only has this boosted demand for emergency food assistance, the added guidelines from Public Health and Infection Prevention And Control (IPAC) have changed the types of supplies Cambridge Shelter can source and provide to program participants. 

Requiring single-use utensils, creamers, and condiments, Kitchen Manager Moe Vidotto says the Cambridge Shelter has relied heavily on the Community Food Assistance Network to source the additional supplies, while still receiving a stable supply of food. This assistance has taken the pressure off of Cambridge Shelter, by sourcing food from the Community Food Assistance Network they are able to focus on keeping KW residents sheltered and safe.     

Urban Hope

Open four days a week, Urban Hope — a program of The Cambridge Vineyard — offers shelter, lunch and dinner services, shower facilities, grocery and clothing rooms, as well as laundry services. 

Giving out tents, blankets and conducting ongoing outreach services to those on the streets, Urban Hope continues to pivot and expand operations to meet rising demand.

Due to the recent extreme cold weather, Urban Hope has extended operating hours into the evening, often staying open until 10 p.m. to ensure program participants can keep warm. 

Focusing on hot meals made with whole, nutritious ingredients, volunteer Christine Lakatos shares how vital support from the Community Food Assistance Network allowed Urban Hope to hand out 100 boxes of food each month, providing the homeless community with simple, easy meals that meet their dietary needs and preferences. This variety in emergency food assistance is what allows Urban Hope to serve their program participants with dignity and choice. 

YWCA Temporary Shelter

Offering temporary shelter services to those who have a hard time fitting into regular shelter systems, the YWCA Temporary Shelter is a critical service during the cold winter months.

Over the past two years, the YWCA Temporary Shelter quickly adapted their services, extending hours to include overnight, afternoon and now, 24 hour operations. However, with these additional hours come a growing need for more food supply.

As outlined by the Manager of YW Temporary Emergency Men’s Shelter, Julie Lynch, working alongside the Community Food Assistance Network, allowed them to pivot operations quickly. Answering their calls for support, the Community Food Assistance Network was able to deliver additional resources every day, meaning the YWCA could continue to offer reliable and trustworthy services. 

Collaborating with the Community Food Assistance Network during this period of rapid change, the YWCA can continue supporting vulnerable populations and pivoting to ever-changing needs, without having to worry about when and how they will get more food. 

Ray of Hope

Serving a diverse population across Waterloo Region, The Ray of Hope provides meals, medical services and classes to those who are chronically homeless, precariously housed, elderly and in need of community support, or housed but are living in poverty.

Over the last few years, The Ray of Hope follows a Bridges Out of Poverty approach, expanding programming to offer classes that can help address poverty and understand the population they serve on a deeper level. This has been critical in supporting the rising number of newcomers who now call Waterloo Region home.

As shared by Program Supervisor, Boris Emanuel, no single agency or community partner can take on the rising demand alone. Working alongside other agencies in the Community Food Assistance Network, The Ray of Hope was able to share resources and expand meal services to breakfast and lunch, serving a record-breaking 7,500 lunches and 6,500 breakfasts in December 2021. This volume of service was not conceivable six months prior. 

Together, we are resilient and can continue to meet our community’s needs with dignity and respect for all.

To learn more about the Community Food Assistance Network and to get involved, click here

To donate to The Food Bank, click here

To join our supportive team of volunteers, click here 

If you need food assistance, click here