Happy to report that we have had some great traffic from our Cambridge Community Spotlight in our last two posts. This time I sat down with Pat Singleton of the Cambridge Self Help Food Bank. I have been working with Pat for the last 7-8 years helping when they need assistance with food sorting or their annual toy sort to make sure kids get something under the tree, no matter their circumstance.
Mike: Let's start with the basics, what is it the food bank does?
Pat: At the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank we provide 3 main food programs.
- Emergency Food Assistance: Like most Food Banks, we offer a 3 – 5 day allocation of food. There is a form that is filled out the first time you are here, after that the information is on our computer program and participants check in their name and address are checked.
- Food Co-operative: This specific food distribution program is quite unlike others offered at Food Banks. There are currently 600 families that are part of the Food Co-operative. Those accessing this program receive two food pickups per month and contribute $9 per month and a minimum of 4 hours of work per month. A number of those who access the Food Co-operative Program contribute well in excess of 12 – 15 hours per week.
- Organizations we give food to: We currently provide food to approximately 26 organizations in the Cambridge & North Dumfries community. This includes organizations such as the Trinity Community Table (Soup Kitchen), Shelters, Neighbourhood Centres and Food Bank off sites.
Mike: How is the Self Help Food Bank different than other food banks?
Pat: We are very proud of the uniqueness of our Food Bank. First of all we are more than a food bank. Our name says it with the "Self Help" part. By asking people to make a minimum financial contribution and volunteer 4 hours each month we are encouraging them to be a member of a co-op with the ability to govern and make decisions based on the needs of the whole community. Participants are also given the opportunity to choose their food based on their family size. The norm for most Food Banks is that you are given a box of pre-selected food. Again by choosing their own food we are giving them the satisfaction of selection plus the hours of volunteering lead them to develop new skills. We also offer a number of programs that lead to self-reliance. For example we partner with the YWCA program, Small Steps to Success a pre-employment program for women. Other unique programs at our Food Bank are the Grandparents support group, Back-pack program where over 1,000 pack backs are distributed in Sept. and the Spiritual Care Program. The Spiritual Care Program is in the business of helping participants find hope in a sometimes hopeless situation.
Mike: I have been through your location a few times, there are lots of doors with program names. Tell me what else you do for the community?
Pat: Programs provided by outside agencies at our Food Bank include Wholistic Child & Youth Services, Small Steps to Success (a Program of the YWCA), Family Counselling Centre of Cambridge & North Dumfries, Waterloo Region Community Legal Services, ACCKWA & Sanguen Health Centre. All of these partnerships help our participants to readily access community supports.
The Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank is identified as a safe, compassionate and responsive community. It is the hub of their place of learning, receiving and sharing both the highs and lows of their lives.
Mike: How can I support the Food Bank?
Pat: You can support the Food Bank in a number of ways:
- By becoming a donor either in food donations or a financial donation. A financial donation allows us to purchase much needed food staples
- You could organize a food drive at your place of employment, school, church, and neighbourhood. Bins, posters etc. are all available to help you in your food drive.
- Volunteer to assist with a special event. Whether it be for “Stuff a Bus” at Christmas or a Bar-B-Q we always need an extra pair of hands.
- Volunteer for sorting food after a food drive.
- Become an ambassador for the Food Bank. We need positive people to promote the work we are doing.
- Check out our Web site for items on our Wish List. Sometimes people find they just might have access to something we dearly need.
Mike: What is on the radar for 2015?
- Talk to your children about why we need food banks
Pat: This year the Food Bank is commemorating 30 years of service to the residents of Cambridge and North Dumfries. It is an opportunity for the Food Bank to thank our many donors and to inform the community how we have grown over those 30 years. Our three events for this anniversary will be an opportunity to share about our work with the community. These events are: Pat in the Hat, a thirty hour fun event hosted to talk about the Food Bank and act as a fund raiser. This was held at Cambridge City Hall on March 6-7th. (Dr. Seuss would have been proud)
The second event for our anniversary is an Art Auction on May 21st. Entitled, Behind Open Doors it is once again a fund raiser but also an opportunity to reflect on the fact that we do not know what is behind closed doors for them. Poverty is very pervasive. This evening is a free event with light refreshments please join us the 21st of May at 5:30 at the Honda Dealership on Hespeler Road.
The third event is a dinner at the Holiday Inn, Cambridge on October 2nd. This is an opportunity for the Food Bank to thank donors by profiling the three decades.Hear what it is the CSHFB does direct from a few people that use it.
There is a spring Food Drive on currently and there will be a Thanksgiving Food Drive this fall. Certainly Christmas is a very busy time for the Food Bank. We assist well over 1,000 families with Christmas, coordinating our efforts with Salvation Army and the Firefighters.
Please check out their web site at www.cambridgefoodbank.on.ca or call the office at 519-622-6550 for further information or to donate/volunteer.