Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Who's Hungry?

I’ve recently had the opportunity to see a Food Bank of Waterloo Region emergency hamper up close and I’ve got to admit, I was pretty impressed. The hamper had a ton of fresh fruit and vegetables, almost too much for what many families would use. There was a pineapple, 2 heads cauliflower, lettuce, 10 lbs carrots, red onions, 5 lbs plums, 6 oranges, 6 pints grape tomatoes, apples, 18 kiwi, 3 lbs strawberries and 3 heads celery. The dry goods did not include any macaroni and cheese boxes, which I found surprising but did include packs of dry pasta, pasta sauce, cup of soup packets, cookies, cans of corn and tuna helper. The proteins in the hamper included chicken wieners, smoked sausages, hamburger, lamb shanks and sliced deli ham. Now the proteins, from a health perspective could use a bit of work but I was amazed at the amount of good offerings in the hamper, especially considering that the public often only hears requests for the basics like mac & cheese and peanut butter.

Our local food bank feeds 26,500 people in the region annually. 900,000 people across Canada use their own local Food Bank annually. That is a lot of hungry Canadians. It is thanks to companies doing food drives, families using food banks as a teaching tool, local store and farms donating excess produce and large volume suppliers that offer volume discounts to the Food Bank that these people were able to eat.

Can you imagine not being able to feed your family? How hard must it be for someone who has worked their entire life to admit that they have hit the bottom and are no longer able to provide for their own children or themselves. It is estimated that for every 1 person who goes to the Food Bank, another 3 people don't. This may be because it can be hard for some to access a food bank but in many cases, it can be because they are afraid to admit that they can’t provide those basic necessities for themselves ad their families. In a world where the almighty dollar is a status symbol, it can be a crushing bow to someone who is already knocked down to admit that they have none.

I’ve learned that there is nothing wrong with asking for help. In any situation, whether it be asking for business help from a mentor, help with an event from a friend, help with paying your bills through a credit agency, help with finding money to pay your rent or help with money to start your own business, there are always people out there who are more than willing to lend their support and expertise.

Since some people aren’t so great at asking for help when they need it, I’m going to ask for them. No matter where you live, there is a Food Bank. In small towns they may just be located within a local church and in a metropolis they may be huge distribution centres, but they are there and they need your help. If your family is able to in any way, find a way to donate to your local food bank. When you have small children, I find donating food is best because it is a visual lesson for your children. Remember, a $1 bag of dry pasta and a $1.50 jar of pre-made pasta sauce will feed a family of 4 for dinner and quite possibly lunch the next day. It doesn’t take a lot to help someone in need. If you’re able to, cash donations are even better. With bulk buying power and serious discounts from manufacturers and distributors, food banks can usually turn your $1 into anywhere between $3-$5. That takes your $1 package of dry pasta and turns it into 5! So if you donated $10 which your large food bank turned into $50... that could feed a family of 4 for an ENTIRE WEEK. For $10.

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