Heroes of Heron Emergency Food Centre - Ottawa Food Bank
Eighty per cent of the food we distribute comes from The Ottawa Food Bank, while local community donations, from folk like you, provide an additional 20 % of our food supports.
by Lynne Sherwood March 2019
As I write this article I sit looking out my window at mountains of snow. Everywhere. And I wonder how this must seem to new Canadians, to the folk from warmer parts of the globe who are enduring their first Ottawa winter. I remember once visiting a newly arrived family from southern India. They were huddled in their high-rise apartment, with about 3 humidifiers pumping steam into an already over heated - to my way of thinking - home. They sat huddled in shawls, afraid to brave the icy streets, and sent their university student son out to buy groceries – he being the most adventurous of the group.
This family was relatively affluent – the father assigned to the Indian High Commission – but many new Canadians are not and are dealing with the anxiety and trauma consequent to the experiences which brought them to this strange, cold land, as well as financial and food insecurity. Here in The Great White North we tend to forget that most of the world is not like this, that we are a small population living on the northern fringe of habitable land on this planet. For folk accustomed to consistently warm temperatures it must be difficult indeed to keep in mind that one day the weather will turn to spring as abruptly as it turned to winter, that all the snow and cold will disappear in a couple of weeks. Let’s make sure they don’t have to worry about having enough to eat while they are waiting for some warmth.
This month our Hero is The Ottawa Food Bank, from whom we receive 80% of our supplies. In talking to both individuals and community groups about our work at HEFC, there is generally a lot of confusion about the difference between our organization and the Ottawa Food Bank. People think that when they drop donations into the large bins at grocery stores or donate to the OC Transpo food drive or other large community events, they are donating to HEFC. In fact, we are two quite distinct organizations.
The Ottawa Food Bank is the over-arching agency which provides food to 114 smaller organizations throughout the city.
Donations through large community food drives go to the Ottawa Food Bank and are distributed throughout the whole city. At their large warehouse on Michael Street they collect and distribute 14 tons of food each day, to a monthly total of 37,524 clients, 36% of whom are children. Agencies they serve include large food banks like HEFC as well shelters and emergency food programs, other community food banks, and small food cupboards and school breakfast programs. Every week HEFC submits a listing of needed supplies and a large truck arrives from The Food Bank loaded with the basics – bread, eggs, powdered milk, pasta, cereal and the other good things which enable us to run our service. Eighty per cent of the food we distribute comes from The Ottawa Food Bank, while local community donations, from folk like you, provide an additional 20 % of our food supports. The Ottawa Food Bank is a nonprofit charity, like HEFC, administered by a volunteer board of directors and largely operated by volunteers
This year is the 35th anniversary of the creation of the Ottawa Food Bank, which opened in 1984, operated by volunteers (naturally) in the basement of the former police station on Waller Street to address the growing crisis in food security in our city. As with the beginning of HEFC, it was hoped at the time that this would be a temporary situation. Unfortunately, as we all know, need has increased every year, and now the Ottawa Food Bank is one of the largest charities in our area.
According to a report from their 2019 Annual General Meeting, the Ottawa Food Bank this year is focusing on four areas: healthy and accessible food, capacity within the system of agencies, innovation in food banking, and advocacy.
Our clients at HEFC have already benefitted from greater supplies of fresh fruits, vegetables and meat, and healthier choices over all, in the last few years. In part this is the result of greater awareness of food insecurity issues among local businesses and organizations with surplus food. However, a large contribution to this shift in quality of food supplies is also due to the innovative Community Harvest Program of the Ottawa Food Bank, which grows and collects nutritious, local produce for clients served by Ottawa Food Bank member agencies and across the national capital region. Generous local farmers, volunteers and funders enable this program. Additionally, food is also grown on a plot of land donated to The Food Bank by the Black Family Farm near Stittsville and cultivated and harvested by Food Bank volunteers. The quality of food HEFC is able to provide to our clients is greatly enhanced by this innovative program. Thank you. HEFC would be unable to function without the Ottawa Food Bank.
You can find out more about The Ottawa Food Bank at: www.ottawafoodbank.ca
Members of the Board of HEFC are happy to attend your events or fundraiser- to talk about the service we, all together, provide for our community. We even have a PowerPoint presentation ready to go! Call us at 613 737-9090 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Heron Emergency Food Centre is located at 1480 Heron Road and is open 4 days a week to provide emergency food to people in need in Ottawa South.