Hunger Awareness Week
Food Banks Canada
Presented by Farm Credit Canada
We had been in a desperate situation and... we were able to move into something completely different.

Ben’s* story

We had been in a desperate situation and... we were able to move into something completely different.

As much as they loved their home in the southeast corner of Saskatchewan, Wanda, 40 and Ben, 45, knew they had to make a change. The jobs picture was pretty bleak and one of their four children had a disability that required special attention. “Our research showed that Rosetown had significantly more resources and possibilities, including the availability of speech therapy and child development specialists,” says Wanda. “We didn’t know how it would work out, but it was a chance worth taking.”

When our young family moved to a new community, some challenges hit us. I suffered an injury and needed a few months of recovery time. My wife, Wanda, was pregnant and not working. The bold plans we had for our future would have to wait; our pressing need was to put food on the table. The Department of Community Resources referred us to the Rosetown & District Food Bank.

What we discovered was an organization where food is just the beginning of the kind of care they provide. After giving us the food we needed, the Rosetown Food Bank went a step further and referred us to a regional college. We enrolled in a bridging program that provided training in lifeskills, employment readiness, resumé preparation and job placement. We had been in a desperate situation and all of a sudden, we were able to move into something completely different. It was overwhelming and also very exciting.

The training gave us the experience we needed to secure meaningful jobs and we have made huge strides in providing for our family. Although we still benefit from a clothing donation program at the food bank, our positive experience has inspired us to step into a new role – as mentors.

Our first-hand experience with job loss, financial hardship and adjustment to life in a new community taught us a great deal. We’re grateful to be able to mentor other young families going through similar hardships. You don’t know the kinds of problems people face until you are in that situation yourself. Your perspective certainly changes when you see both sides of the coin.

*Real name is not used

As someone who has two small children, it was shocking to see how little baby food was coming in to the food bank.

Erin’s Story

As someone who has two small children, it was shocking to see how little baby food was coming in to the food bank.

It was really important to participate because it was a way to reach out to the communities where we live and work. By being onsite at the Saskatoon food bank, it really opened our eyes to the impact that the organization was making, and it also inspired me personally to talk to my family about food and hunger as something that is a unanimous need.

We all go to the store, do our grocery shopping, and see the [donation] bins there and know that the organization exists, but before we got involved in this program I had no idea that they had a clothing depot, and that they have the extensive programming in the Saskatoon food bank that they do. Everything from help with tax preparation to Community Kitchen. I think that's one of the real advantages to going to the site to volunteer - because we got to see first-hand the impact that we were making.

Our team got to sort a lot of food in the warehouse, and it was really interesting to see the kind of food that came in, and to see which bins were really full and which bins were not full. As someone who has two small children, it was really saddening and shocking to see how little baby food was coming in, knowing that that is a need because a lot of the clients are families and many of them are children.

I donated $100 – a third of my monthly income – to my local food bank.

Jennifer’s Story

I donated $100 – a third of my monthly income – to my local food bank.

During the Christmas holiday, I was listening to a call in radio campaign to raise money for food banks in my province.

There had been a time when I needed to get food from the food bank near me. I’d actually still need help if it weren’t for my kind neighbours and supportive community. I’m on disability while I wait for crucial surgery and I receive $300.00 a month in financial support.

When I needed access to food, my food bank was there for me. I donated $100 - 1/3 of my income for the month - to the campaign. I wanted to give back to the organizations that had given to me when I needed it desperately.

From the bottom of my heart, to all the incredible people and corporations involved with food banks, I thank you for your support!

There are other kids in their schools who need help.

Bill’s Story

There are other kids in their schools who need help.

Our Food for Kids program was launched 3 years ago. It's a wonderful opportunity because it's kids helping kids. We have kids come from the various schools each week to put the bags together. It teaches them a bit about volunteerism, but it also helps them to realize that there are hungry kids in their school who need help. They're very honoured to help the other kids, and they're just having a great time doing it.

Each week we have a school designated to come in to put our bags together. We do approximately 100 bags - they go around our food bank and our warehouse and pick up items that they need, put them on the tables and start a production line, and then each Thursday morning we have the schools that are participating in the program pick a number of bags up, bring them to the school and at the end of the day on Friday the teachers give each child a bag of food to take home for the weekend.

I think the kids that come in here each and every week realize what they're doing, and gives them an idea that there are other people out there who really need help, and why not start by helping kids in your own school?

Share your story. Voice your support.
If Hunger had a Voice it would ask you, ’What are you doing to feed your friends?’

Jonathan Hood’s Story

If Hunger had a Voice it would ask you, ’What are you doing to feed your friends?’

This is Jonathan Hood from your hometown Argos! Now I have a really serious question for you today: what would you do if your best friend was hungry and needed a meal? Well, I think that's a no brainer. I think we all would say, "We'd give them some food", "We'd feed our brother".

If hunger had a voice, what would it say? I believe that it would say "feed me". Everyday you go through life feeding people, or taking away from people. I really believe in feeding people, because then they can go out and do their day-to-day tasks. They can go out and add value to others. So let's feed people. Let's donate to local food banks and let's do our part to make sure that everyone around us is eating. Feed your friends.

A lot of people don't know too much information about what food banks actually do. What they really are is a source of support. Everybody needs support. A food bank is a place where you can get an ear for your problems, food to feed your soul, and love - and we all need love.

I'm Jonathan Hood from the Toronto Argonauts and if Hunger had a Voice it would ask you, "What are you doing to feed your friends?". My teammates and I are doing our part, and you can do yours too.

The people I met at the food bank were not that different from my own friends and family.

Julie’s Story

The people I met at the food bank were not that different from my own friends and family.

I recently had the pleasure and privilege of touring my local food bank and attending a Community Kitchen event there. The people I met there – students, retirees, people caring for ill family members – were not that different from my own friends and family. I met one woman who works at a daycare while going to school to get her Early Childhood Education certification. The job isn’t enough to cover the costs of school and life so she relies on the support of the food bank. I have two young daughters in daycare and it’s absurd to me that one of their immensely hard-working teachers might not be able to afford food. In a prosperous country like Canada, to boot. My eyes are opened. As is my wallet, with a donation to my local food bank.

Share your story and support your local food bank.
It’s been a life-changing experience for me.

Mark’s Story

It’s been a life-changing experience for me.

It's been a life changing experience for me because I think for a lot of us, we didn't realize what the food bank did. Our families got involved, the children got involved and they got to see what the food bank did. I think it opened all of our eyes. It really changes my perspective on how busy the food banks are. I had no idea - the volume of work they do, and how many people they serve.

I just can't say enough good things about the food bank. Everyone should volunteer at a food bank, just because it's that good of an experience. It opens your eyes and it also gives you a feeling of goodness from your heart because you know you're really helping those in need.

At each birthday event we ask that our guests bring a food donation instead of a gift.

Juli’s Story

At each birthday event we ask that our guests bring a food donation instead of a gift.

I wanted to share a family tradition we started when our first child, Justine, was born 10 years ago and continued when our son, Merrick, was born 6 years ago. I wanted to share it because ther are many little actions taking place that do make a difference.

In the spirit of giving and receiving, and with the reality of today’s economic situation, we came to the realization that we needed to be aware, participate, and contribute to a great cause that supports our community.

At each birthday event we ask that our guests bring a food donation instead of a gift. Our children still get one gift from mom and dad.

After the birthday event, we then go to our local fire station to drop off the food donation and if convenient, we enjoy a few minutes visiting with the firefighters and looking at the trucks and equipment. With our 10-year-old daughter, the novelty of going to the station has worn off, but her appreciation and enthusiasm with giving has not.

If only half of Canada’s children and teenagers who can afford it were to adopt this tradition the result would be a continuous supply to our food banks. Not to mention less waste in our landfills.

It is our hope that this tradition will live on in our family and will carry on to the next generation (perhaps the hunger issues will have been solved by then). We also hope our actions will influence other families. It is easy, worthwhile and so rewarding.

Things got better when I mustered the courage to visit the food bank.

Jean-Marie’s Story

Things got better when I mustered the courage to visit the food bank.

I’m not used to sitting still. Whether it’s at work or in my personal life, I bring a high degree of energy and vitality. I like to be busy, active – and independent. When I was seriously injured on the job and forced to take a leave of absence, the shock of losing that independence hit me hard.

Sitting at home was just not my style. And even more frustrating was not earning enough money to afford the basic necessities. The cost of living in Quebec had gone up, but the money I was receiving from the CSST (Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail) while on sick leave was far less than what I needed to make ends meet.

By nature an optimist, I was confident things would get better. And to my delight, they did when I mustered the courage to visit the food bank. The food I received touched my heart and made me feel better during a very difficult time and I know they bring that same hope and heart to everyone they help.

I am never shy to admit that I have used a food bank

Heike’s Story

I am never shy to admit that I have used a food bank

I am proud to have a stable job that not only pays well but gives me time with my two young daughters. Just a couple of years ago, things were going in a very different direction.

I moved to Vancouver in the winter of 1990. Without education or skills, I found myself working in the sex trade. It took me four years and the support of a good friend to find the courage to get out. I moved to an emergency women’s shelter in Victoria and then to my own apartment, but I was still struggling to get by.

I turned for help to the Mustard Seed Food Bank. In the days and years since, the small and dedicated staff of Mustard Seed have not only given me food, but friendship and guidance. They gave me the boost of confidence I needed to re-enter the workforce. I began working in retail, and saved enough to go back to school where I qualified as an esthetician.

My life has had many twists and turns, but I’ve never been shy to admit that I have used a food bank.

I will long remember the kindness I received from the food bank

Geoff’s* Story

I will long remember the kindness I received from the food bank

When my wife was diagnosed with cancer, rather than lose the opportunity to spend precious time and create final memories together, I decided to stop working near the end of her illness. The decision wasn’t easily made and had serious economic consequences for my family. Wracked with worry and guilt, I turned to the Leduc & District Food Bank.

The assistance provided by the Food Bank meant that I could afford other things for my wife. They made her last few months so much easier. They went way beyond the call of duty. They asked how she was doing, they listened, and made an effort to bring food that helped her when she had trouble eating, like puddings.

I am now making plans to return to work, and I will long remember the kindness I received from the Food Bank. I felt guilty going there, but they put my mind at ease. They were a friend and someone for me to talk to. These words seem inadequate, but my thank you is coming from the heart.

*Real name is not used

It makes me feel sad that there are so many people who need help.

Kate’s Story

It makes me feel sad that there are so many people who need help.
I started volunteering here this school year with my friends and family. It makes me feel sad that there are so many people who do need help, but I'm happy to help them. If you get the opportunity to help out in the food bank then you should, because it's really rewarding to help people.
When my dad fell ill, I quit my job to become his full time care giver.

Diana’s Story

When my dad fell ill, I quit my job to become his full time care giver.

When my dad fell ill with Alzheimer’s, I quit my middle-management job and went on social assistance to become his full time care giver. He helped my entire life. It’s my turn now. I rely on food bank to make ends meet, but I volunteer there so I can give back and also recharge. It’s the same routine at home with my dad. Here, I get to meet and help people and learn new things every day.

It never occurred to me that food banks could be way to help keep people forging ahead.

Dan’s Story

It never occurred to me that food banks could be way to help keep people forging ahead.

My friend Julie who works for Food Banks Canada invited me to lunch at a Community Kitchen last Tuesday. The timing was perfect as I had been feeling a bit sorry for myself and she thought some perspective would do me good.

Having never visited a food bank Community Kitchen before, all I had were my preconceptions. I pictured a dreary, poorly-lit place where people ate by themselves wondering where life went wrong.

We arrived around 11:30 to an Indian Chickpea and Vegetable soup simmering on the stovetop and a gorgeous vegetable lasagna in the oven, but all I could smell were the peanut butter bites in the corner.

“Don’t get any funny ideas” said an older European man who clearly saw me eying the dessert tray. “Save the best for the end”. For the first time in what seemed like forever, I felt myself crack a smile. It then hit me like a ton of bricks that I, probably most privileged person in the room, was the gloomiest gus there. I had started down the road to perspective and it felt good.

Looking around, I saw a tight-knit community with an inspiring sense of collective dignity. In spite of the seemingly poor hand life dealt them, they were all there to better themselves. There was a group in the kitchen putting the finishing touches on lunch, a smaller group putting the folding tables together and two people in the corner sorting plates and cutlery. And they were all happy to be there.

While I waited for the first course, I took the opportunity to chat up two of the women who showed up that day.

First was Dagmar. She was wearing a nice dress and obviously spent time on her makeup that morning – not someone I’d ever thought I’d see at a food bank.

Dagmar came to Canada from Brazil, leaving three grandkids and a teaching career behind to help her sister look after her family. She’s studying Early Childhood Education at Seneca College, doing her practicum and working. She visits the food bank about once a month to fill out her grocery list when she’s short on cash.

One of the reasons Dagmar likes visiting the Community Kitchen is to work on her English. “Not speaking English well has made it very hard for me to get ahead. I’m not living up to my potential right now, but I’m getting there. I know I’m a winner”.

Until hearing Dagmar’s story, I had always thought of the food bank as a place people went when they had given up. It never occurred to me that it could be way to help keep people forging ahead. Embarrassment washed over me, not just because of my ignorance, but because I realized how poorly I had been dealing with my own adversity compared to Dagmar. For a brief moment, she was the most inspiring person I had ever met. Then I met Diana.

When Diana’s dad got Alzheimer’s, she quit her middle-management job and went on social assistance to become his full time care giver. “He helped my entire life” she said. “It’s my turn now”. She also uses the food bank to make ends meet, but she visits Community Kitchen to get away for a bit and recharge. “It’s the same routine at home with my dad” she said. “Here I get to talk to people and learn new things every day.”

Just as Diana was getting on a roll, it was time to eat. Julie and I took a seat at the communal table and Maria (clearly the den-mother of the group) brought out the soup.

What I learned about the meal I was about to have was that it was all made with food someone could regularly find at the food bank. In fact, the whole point of the Community Kitchen was to teach food bank clients how to cook healthy with food bank items – the whole teaching a man to fish versus giving a man a fish. It made so much sense to me that a food bank would have this kind of programming, and I was shocked that it hadn’t been talked about or celebrated more. This was a story that needed to be told, and I was glad to be in a position to tell it.

Not wanting to take food from people who needed it more than I did, I served myself a very small helping from the pot. That was a mistake because the soup was fantastic. I wolfed mine down in seemingly record time, and before I knew it, Maria had taken my bowl from me and refilled it almost to the top. I initially felt bad about accepting seconds while everyone around me was still on their firsts,but them I took another spoonful and felt more than okay about it.

After the soup, the facilitator started a group discussion about what next month’s meal would be. Through that, I learned that the kitchen has a working barbecue out back and that if the weather held up, they’d do burgers and dogs. As two of the men started debating the best burger toppings, out came the vegetable lasagna.

Again, I was hesitant to take a heaping helping; but again, Maria gave me no choice. As we ate, another group discussion got started about what could be done to better spread the word about the Community Kitchen. The consensus around the table was that people should have to find it on their own or through a friend. Like the Community Kitchen concept itself, there were to be no handouts. People should have to work for it.

With the lasagna almost all gone, the smell of the peanut butter bites was even stronger. As Julie and I cleared the plates, the man who earlier warned me not to cheat on lunch with dessert came in to the kitchen and, with a smile, handed me my first dessert treat. It was ridiculously good. I had two more when I got back to the table. Clearly, I had gotten over my previous issue.

After some light post-meal chatter, it was time for Julie and me to head out. As I got back into the car, the calmness of perspective washed over me. I came here feeling emotionally paralyzed and left feeling inspired to do something about it. I’d gladly accept another to the Community Kitchen, especially so if the Peanut Butter bites are there.

I know I’m a winner

Dagmar’s Story

I know I’m a winner

I came to Canada from Brazil, leaving three grandkids and a teaching career behind to help my sister look after her family. I’m studying Early Childhood Education at Seneca College, doing my practicum and working. I visit the food bank about once a month to fill out my grocery list when I’m short on money.

As often as I can, I try to attend my local Community Kitchen to work on my English. Not speaking English well has made it very hard for me to get ahead. I’m not living up to my potential right now, but I’m getting there. I know I’m a winner.

I realized that my situation wasn't as dire as other peoples.

Roberta’s Story

I realized that my situation wasn't as dire as other peoples.

It was a bit more than 25 years ago. We had just moved to North Bay and were very short of funds. I felt embarrassed to have to go to the food bank, but we needed help to make it to pay day. As I was waiting in line, a young teen mom pushed her way to the front. The food bank volunteer told her to wait her turn. In tears the girl told her that her baby had not eaten that day (it was about ten in the morning) and begged for something to feed her. She was immediately given a jar of baby food and returned to her place in line to feed her daughter while she waited her turn. I realized that my situation wasn't as dire as other peoples. I also realized that the best thing I could do to pay my community back for the help I received was to support my local food bank whenever and wherever I could.

Share your story. Voice your support.

Our Give Hunger a Voice campaign aims to show those who are hungry in Canada that they are not alone and that people from coast to coast believe hunger in this country is an unacceptable and solvable problem.

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About the Give Hunger a Voice Campaign

Close to 850,000 Canadians turn to a food bank each month – they are your neighbours, your coworkers perhaps even family members. Hunger Awareness Week is the time where we ask all Canadians to take time to learn more about the solvable problem of hunger in Canada, and provide support to their local food banks – by donating food, funds or time.

This Hunger Awareness Week, Food Banks Canada is challenging Canadians to break the silence surrounding hunger in Canada by voicing their stories, their concerns, their support and their solutions for hunger. We are showcasing the multitude and strength of voices of hunger across Canada from coast to coast to coast and stimulate conversations about the need to solve it.

Throughout Hunger Awareness Week we are inviting all Canadians to voice: