Food for Thought Blog

Fresh Approaches – Fall 2022 – Special Edition: Gratitude Report

August 15th, 2022Fresh Approaches Newsletter


Executive message

Letter from Kim

Dear Friends,

Thank you! You truly are part of a unique and special group of caring and compassionate friends. You give generously in many different ways just to make sure people in your community have enough to eat.

For that, I simply can’t thank you enough.

Your kindness throughout the past few challenging years has been absolutely invaluable. While COVID may be on the decline, food bank usage is rising. Food and gas costs have risen steeply and more people than ever are struggling with the increased costs of living. Thank you for being there so we can continue to meet the need.

You’ve also helped make a number of changes and improvements to the way we serve hungry people in your community. You’ve helped us to dig deep and look at some of the root causes of food insecurity and how we provide longer term support to people in desperate need.

As you’ll read in this issue of your Fresh Approaches newsletter, you support a vast network of organizations in Waterloo Region. All are dedicated to providing fresh, nutritious food to vulnerable people – and to providing a wide variety of food supports.

None of the stories in this issue would be possible without you. I’m so very grateful for your generosity.

Yours with deep thanks,

Kim Wilhelm
Vice President, Philanthropy & Partnerships
The Food Bank of Waterloo Region

Why Choice Matters in the Community Food Assistance Network

Accessing emergency food assistance can be an intimidating experience. In Waterloo Region, the Community Food Assistance Network – a system of 100+ community programs and agency partners – understand how difficult it can be to reach out for support. That is why the community programs and agency partners focus on creating welcoming spaces where community members in need of emergency food assistance can access support.

The Benefits of Choice

To meet various dietary and cultural food preferences, the community programs and agency partners within the Community Food Assistance Network, select a variety of foods that will work best for their individual and family clients. By offering a wide range of nourishing items…

  • participants are supported in making choices that will work best for them and their families.
  • participants will have more opportunity to learn about what foods are available and can try new foods!
  • there is less waste because families are able to take home the items they need and will use.
  • participants with medical conditions can choose specific items that will support their health.
  • participants can choose items that will meet their cultural and religious needs.

When services are delivered in a warm and welcoming environment, people feel respected. Offering choice is just one important part of making everyone feel valued and supported.

Community Connections:
Lifting up your neighbours

Are you familiar with the Chandler-Mowat neighbourhood? It’s a narrow, 2-kilometre area where many homes are rent-controlled and community members represent a multitude of languages and cultures. For those who are new to the area, it can be difficult to find the time to connect with neighbours – particularly over the past two years of pandemic-related restrictions.

Thankfully, a wonderful meal program in Chandler-Mowat provides an opportunity for community members to safely interact and participate in a community building activity!

A team of talented women with a passion for cooking selflessly get together every month to prepare meals to share with neighbours. The women work out of the Chandler-Mowat Community Centre to prepare great tasting meals in a certified kitchen. 

The program goes beyond sharing a nourishing meal. Community members can also learn about how to access other vital services, engage in a socializing opportunity and celebrate local talents. 

Program cook Jackie shares, “With the meals we serve we hope to reduce isolation, not only by nourishing the community but also proving that if you bring ideas forward you can make them happen. I’d like to encourage others not to hold back. Why don’t we explore the resources, talents, and possibilities in our neighbourhood to make things better for each other?”

You can clearly see the excitement in neighbours registered to receive a meal!  On cook day, neighbours pass through the Community Centre and stop in at the kitchen to share encouraging words and promises that they’ll be back to pick-up their meal.

The program is clearly having an impact, as food creates a powerful connecter to bring people together and build rapport between neighbours.

Program cook Trish recalls one significant connection, “For one neighbour, when we served the mac and cheese meal, he had to pull Jackie aside and share how his mom made the dish the exact same way. He got sentimental recalling memories about the foods he ate with his family. To have these stories shared with us is something so special.”

Thank you so much for your compassionate support, which provides food for this and other vital community programs.

Cambridge Food Bank: teaching people about healthy cooking

Your gifts support programs designed to teach at-risk and vulnerable community members about healthy food choices and how to prepare healthy meals. One of those programs is at the Cambridge Food Bank.

Chaitali Maybhate “Chai”, the Health Promoter at the Cambridge Food Bank, curates a variety of cooking programs that teach participants how to prepare healthy meals – and provide a space to connect with others in a welcoming environment. Program participants learn about the local foods that enrich our lives, Canada’s Food Guide, and what services and supports are available to ensure everyone has access to the healthy foods they need.

Chai explains, “I create icebreakers for newcomers from different backgrounds to share in the experience of cooking together, to enjoy dishes from different cultures, and to adapt recipes so we enjoy meals with less sugar, salt, and fat”.

Every week Chai introduces new recipes. Some participants listen and observe Chai’s actions, a few participants follow Chai’s movements and complete the recipes at home, and others light-up when a dish they are familiar with is featured and they have the opportunity to share stories and see others enjoy comfort foods from around the world. Together, the class fosters a sense of belonging as newcomers get acquainted with each other and the foods that are available locally.

In Waterloo Region, there is a collaborative network of 100+ community programs and agency partners – known as the Community Food Assistance Network – working together to provide access to emergency food and other vital supports to people when and where they need it. The Food Bank of Waterloo Region and Cambridge Food Bank are at the centre of this Network, actively sourcing fresh, frozen and non-perishable food for distribution.

Thank you for your compassionate support of the Community Food Assistance Network! 

In Your Words

“No one should be ashamed to access food assistance. It is an important support that helps get your life on track.”  Lina, food assistant participant 

“It’s about understanding. Understanding other’s feelings. You have to put yourself in their shoes.”Vince, volunteer

“I give because I’ve been there. I believe everyone deserves access to fresh and nutritious food.” – Rosie, current donor