Food Bank History

The Food Bank of Waterloo Region

Past and Present

From its beginning, The Food Bank has been a community-based organization striving to build effective partnerships within Waterloo Region. We work collaboratively with member agencies and community food programs to help provide food for the less fortunate.

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
  • Coordination and leadership among the food assistance network of Waterloo Region 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 on-site and off-site programs

Volunteers are involved in all aspects of The Food Bank of Waterloo Region’s work.




The Food Bank Exterior Sign

Our History

  • 1980

    In the early 1980’s, 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.

  • 1984

    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 the Province, it began with one staff and a Mennonite Central Committee Voluntary Service Worker, serving 5 agencies out of the House of Friendship Hostel Charles Street.

  • 1985

    The Food Bank moved to 50 Kent Street in Kitchener.

  • 1988

    The Food Bank moved to 55 Canbar Street and it served 11 agencies and distributed 282,000 pounds of food.

  • The Food Bank of Waterloo Region old Shirley Ave building

    The Food Bank moved to 350 Shirley Avenue, Kitchener, equipped with a 13,000 square foot warehouse, 2 walk-in freezers and a walk-in cooler.  Two Food Bank vehicles were used to pick up donations.

  • 1992

    The Food Bank distributed 963,000 lbs. of food through 29 member agencies.

  • 1995

    The Ontario government reduced welfare rates for employable recipients by 21.6%. The number of people accessing emergency food increased by 30%.

  • Food donations in The Food Bank warehouse

    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.

  • Food Bank food recovery program truck

    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.

  • Food Bank trucks outside old Shirley Ave location

    Almost 3 million pounds of food was distributed to 40 food programs. 47% of emergency food recipients were children. The Food Bank was part of the Region’s Y2K Emergency Preparedness Plan.

  • Food Bank banner on building

    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.

  • The Food Bank of Waterloo Region building

    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% children.

  • Food Bank tractor trailer truck

    Food Bank Distribution Services began securing food donations from the food industry throughout South Western Ontario as a result of a successful Trillium Foundation grant application. Food banks throughout South Western 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 lbs. of food was distributed to member agencies.

  • Symphony playing at food bank fundraiser

    “Sharing with my community. Every day.” New logo and tagline were adopted by The Food Bank as a result of market research by MFX Partners.

  • 2004

    The Food bank distributed approximately 3.1 million pounds of food to 63 food programs to assist 23,500 people.

  • 2005

    Emergency food was accessed by 24,415 people in the Region.

  • Donor examining food donations

    The Food Bank acquired more than 3 million lbs of food and distributed it to 66 food programs in Waterloo Region. The South Western Ontario hub project was deemed a success acquiring and distributing 1.8 million pounds of food in South Western Ontario.

  • 2007

    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 lbs of food was delivered to 67 food programs. The Second Helping program delivered 643,000 lbs of perishable product to 14 programs. From July 1, 2006 to June 30, 2007 1.4 million pounds of food was acquired through the South Western Ontario hub project and shared with 32 food banks, including our share for Waterloo Region.

  • Children looking at a Canstruction structure

    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.

  • Children collecting food donations

    More than 3.1 million lbs of safe, nutritious food helped approximately 26,800 different people in the Region of Waterloo. Fifteen food programs received 317,166 lbs. of perishable food picked up and distributed the same day through our Perishable Food Program. More than twenty thousand lbs 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?’.

  • Volunteers in a grocery store flash mob

    Over 1.3 million pounds of food was distributed to 35 food banks in Southwestern Ontario. The Food Bank hosted the OAFB conference and had the opportunity to showcase the Region’s food assistance network. The 5th Canstruction event raised over 25,000 lbs 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.

  • Imagine Canada accreditation emblem

    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 5 key areas: financial accountability & 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.

  • The Food Bank fleet of trucks

    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 3 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 SWO food banks through the Food Bank Distribution Service.

  • Food Banks Canada Innovator Award

    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.

  • Agency representatives and volunteers with 2016 Chamber Award

    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 5 years to increase the efficacy of the Community Food Assistance Network to better meet the current and future food needs of program participants.

  • 2017

    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.

  • Representative of The Food Bank of Waterloo Region and supporters cutting the first vegetables of the Fresh Approaches Food Centre

    The Food Bank unveiled a new on-site 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.

  • 2019

    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 has a staff complement of 24. The above accomplishments would not be possible without dedicated volunteers. More than 2000 volunteers donate 20,000+ hours of service every year.

In a perfect world, The Food Bank would have ceased operation by now because everyone would have a stable and adequate income, affordable housing and be in good health. The reality is that hunger is a complex problem. There are numerous circumstances that make it difficult to eliminate hunger – but we can work together to alleviate it, help people deal with short term situations, and improve their lives until long-term solutions are found.