The Food Bank’s History
Past and Present
From the beginning, The Food Bank of Waterloo Region (The Food Bank) has been a community-based organization striving to build effective partnerships within Waterloo region. We work collaboratively with 120+ community programs and agency partners, a part of the Community Food Assistance Network, to provide food and other vital supports to people in need.
Today, The Food Bank of Waterloo Region provides:
- a reliable source of safe, nutritious food for agencies in Waterloo region acquired through community food drives, perishable and non-perishable food recovery programs and corporate partnerships;
- leadership, coordination, and support to the Community Food Assistance Network to improve efficiency and effectiveness;
- innovative food donation and redistribution options for corporate food donors in collaboration with 30+ food banks throughout southwestern Ontario;
- educational and hunger awareness-raising opportunities for youth and adults through onsite and offsite programs; and
- meaningful opportunities for volunteers who are involved in all aspects of The Food Bank work.
In 2022, as we entered the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Food Bank encountered unprecedented demand for food assistance throughout the Community Food Assistance Network. One in 14 households in Waterloo region are now using an emergency food program, representing 40,530 unique individuals. In 2021, that number was 1 in 20 households, representing 36,620 unique individuals. The rising cost of groceries, unaffordability of housing, and precarious employment are contributing to an increase in the number of people turning to food banks for support. We’re no longer a source of emergency assistance in times of crisis—food banks are becoming the norm. As pandemic restrictions lifted throughout the year, The Food Bank marked the return of Canstruction, Empty Bowls, and Waffles in the Warehouse to in person events, and we welcomed back more volunteers to our facility. Throughout the year, The Food Bank continued to expand food service through the Mobile Pantry program, and increase the variety, quality, and quantity of fresh and frozen food distributed to those in need through the Fresh Approaches Food Centre.
At the 2020 Business Excellence Awards Gala, The Food Bank was the proud recipient of the Innovation Award, showing that innovation can come from any industry or sector. We received the Innovation Award for our Fresh Approaches Food Centre program—a seamless approach to food recovery in our community. The Innovation Award is presented to a business that
has created a product or process resulting in increased revenue, job
creation, productivity and overall service improvements.
Food recovery is a top priority at The Food Bank of Waterloo Region. In 2019, we formally launched Saving Fresh. Feeding Community., our food recovery program that prevents edible, healthy food from restaurants, local farmers and food industry partners from being thrown away. This program significantly reduces food waste in our community and ensures the food acquired and distributed is healthy, nutritious and safe for consumption.
The Food Bank unveiled a new onsite food processing facility, the Fresh Approaches Food Centre. The new space improves the distribution of fresh food available to those in need of food assistance and allows us to increase the variety, quality and quantity of fresh food available to those in our community in need of food assistance. The 578 square-foot space improves how we handle fresh food, in turn providing healthier and more nutritional food choices to our agency and community partners.
In 2017, The Food Bank made significant changes to the perishable route that improved how we serve our agencies. These changes helped to streamline efficiencies, increase the number of agencies receiving fresh product and distribute better quality product. Fresh product is now picked up directly from the grocery stores by food bank volunteers and brought to The Food Bank for sorting, order picking and distribution. The changes to the perishable program allowed us to deliver the fresh product agencies need, decrease waste and increase the amount of fresh food agencies hand out. In addition to these changes, we also improved the rotation process in the cooler, fresh product is now distributed within one week of being received and only the best product goes out to agencies.
The Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce awarded The Food Bank with a Business Excellence Award in recognition of the effective changes to infrastructure and processes made over the past five years to increase the efficacy of the Community Food Assistance Network to better meet the current and future food needs of program participants.
The Food Bank received Food Banks Canada’s national Food Bank Innovator Award in recognition of innovation through collaboration, forward thinking and risk taking resulting in an effective Community Food Assistance Network of more than 100 community programs. Implementation of the cloud-based Link2Feed program across the Network provides a centralized database to better understand the needs of those accessing food assistance. Corporate engagement initiatives provided opportunities for awareness-raising as well as a viable revenue stream.
Thirty years after incorporation The Food Bank continued to evolve to meet the needs of this community. Investments in the facility including double deep racking, reach trucks, a new inventory system and volunteer management software increased the capacity and effectiveness of the operation. Emphasis continued to be on sourcing donations of a variety of nutritious foods from food industry partners. 2,178 volunteers donated 23,411 hours to help acquire and distribute more than three million pounds of fresh, frozen and non-perishable food to 80 local member agency and community programs and an additional 1.5 million pounds shared with 30 southwestern Ontario food banks through the Food Bank Distribution Service.
The Food Bank was one of the first food banks to achieve Imagine Canada accreditation following a rigorous 12 month process to confirm excellence in five key areas: financial accountability and transparency, board governance, fundraising, staff management and volunteer management. New technology to improve warehouse operations and volunteer management was procured. Empty Bowls celebrated their 15th year of fundraising for The Food Bank. Stuff-A-Bus and the Wolle Christmas Classic were acknowledged for 20 years of raising food, funds and hunger awareness.
Over 1.3 million pounds of food was distributed to 35 food banks in Southwestern Ontario. The Food Bank hosted the Ontario Association of Food Banks (now Feed Ontario) conference and had the opportunity to showcase the Community Food Assistance Network. The 5th Canstruction event raised over 25,000 pounds and $25,000 plus community awareness of hunger. There was a 12% decrease in non-perishable food donations balanced by a 10% increase in chilled product and 3% increase in frozen meat. Food bank renovations to expand our freezer to 15,700 cu ft and build a new 4300 cu ft cooler plus new food service delivery methods meant we could embrace these changes to benefit all food program participants.
More than 3.1 million pounds of safe, nutritious food helped approximately 26,800 different people in Waterloo region. Fifteen food programs received 317,166 pounds of perishable food picked up and distributed the same day through our Perishable Food Program. More than 20,000 pounds of non-perishable food was distributed each week to food programs throughout Waterloo region. This food assisted 78 programs to provide over 451,411 hot meals and 73,525 food hampers. Also in 2011, 1,787 people toured The Food Bank, 1,908 were present at speaking engagements, and over 400 senior elementary students participated in the pilot phase of an educational activity called “Hungry?’.
The first Canstruction Waterloo Region was a success in many ways, raising food, funds and awareness as well as earning the Innovative Volunteer Involvement Award. The volunteer committee for the twelfth annual Food Bank Golf Tournament raised an unprecedented $46,000 for The Food Bank. A new refrigerated truck was purchased for the Second Helping Program as a result of a generous donation from Toyota and the KW Community Foundation.
Once again the community demonstrated its generous support of The Food Bank with a successful capital campaign to raise funds for a much needed new roof. 2.75 million pounds of food was delivered to 67 food programs. The Second Helping program delivered 643,000 pounds of perishable product to 14 programs. From July 1, 2006 to June 30, 2007 1.4 million pounds of food was acquired through the southwestern Ontario hub project and shared with 32 food banks, including our share for Waterloo region.
The Food Bank acquired more than three million pounds of food and distributed it to 66 food programs in Waterloo region. The Southwestern Ontario hub project was deemed a success acquiring and distributing 1.8 million pounds of food in Southwestern Ontario.
Emergency food was accessed by 24,415 people throughout Waterloo region.
The Food Bank distributed approximately 3.1 million pounds of food to 63 food programs to assist 23,500 people.
“Sharing with my community. Every day.” A new logo and tagline was launched by The Food Bank as a result of market research by MFX Partners.
Food Bank Distribution Services (FBDS) began securing food donations from the food industry throughout Southwestern Ontario as a result of a successful Trillium Foundation grant application. Food banks throughout Southwestern Ontario formed this “hub” pilot project. A new refrigerated truck was added to the Second Helping Program. There was an increase of 4,800 people seeking emergency food since 2001 and 2.47 million pounds of food was distributed to member agencies.
International Year of the Volunteer—4,528 volunteers provided over 20,000 hours of service to The Food Bank, valued at almost a quarter of a million dollars. About 23,000 people received food assistance, 49 per cent children.
A successful Capital Campaign to secure a new location reached its goal of $2 million thanks to strong community support. The Food Bank moved to 50 Alpine Court and distributed 2.8 million pounds of food to 40 food programs, serving 26,205 people.
Almost three million pounds of food was distributed to 40 food programs. Forty-seven per cent of emergency food recipients were children. The Food Bank was part of the Region’s Y2K Emergency Preparedness Plan.
The Second Helping Perishable Food Program began providing day-old breads, salads, deli meats and other products donated by local grocery stores for various food programs in Waterloo region. The Food Bank distributed 1.8 million pounds of food to 33 member agencies and began looking for a larger, permanent facility.
The Food Bank distributed 2.2 million pounds of food to member agencies. Two parent families accessing emergency food outnumbered single parent families and the number of food bank users who were employed either full- or part-time was on the rise.
The Ontario government reduced welfare rates for employable recipients by 21.6 per cent. The number of people accessing emergency food increased by 30 per cent.
The Food Bank distributed 963,000 pounds of food through 29 member agencies.
The Food Bank moved to 350 Shirley Avenue, Kitchener, equipped with a 13,000-square-foot warehouse, two walk-in freezers and a walk-in cooler. Two food bank vehicles were used to pick up donations.
The Food Bank moved to 55 Canbar Avenue (which no longer exists) and it served 11 agencies and distributed 282,000 pounds of food.
The Food Bank moved to 50 Kent Street in Kitchener.
The Food Bank of Waterloo Region, a non-profit, registered charity, began operations as a short-term solution to the challenge of obtaining enough food faced by the unemployed. The first of its kind in Ontario, it began with one staff and a Mennonite Central Committee Voluntary Service Worker, serving five agencies out of the House of Friendship Hostel Charles Street.
In the early 1980s, the recession took its toll on the community. Local non-profit organizations such as the House of Friendship, Salvation Army, Anselma House and St. John’s Soup Kitchen received unprecedented requests for food. The Social Planning Committee of Kitchener-Waterloo reviewed a resource package on the US food bank movement and agreed the concept held merit as a short-term solution. A proposal for a food bank in Waterloo region was developed by the Mennonite Central Committee, food industry and major non-profit organizations providing emergency food.