by Susan Zuidema
Summer months can be hungry months for low-income families in Brantford. Organizations like the Brantford Food Bank are there to help, but there are times when helpers need help, too.
While the Food Bank is open year-round, summer can be tough. The children who benefit from school-run snack and meal programs during the school year are home from school, increasing the drain on the family grocery budget. As a result, families turn to the Food Bank to fill the gap.
At the same time, the Food Bank is in the midst of its “dry months” in terms of donations. In the fall, the Food Bank’s Municipal Food Drive raises approximately 30,000 pounds of food per month, but donations in June, July and August drop significantly and supplies can run quite low.
Mike Bosveld, a member of the ONEchurch Community Action Team, believes he knows a way to solve this chronic issue. Mike grew up participating in an annual food drive run by his local church in Flamborough that targeted filling the storerooms of the local food bank ahead of the summer months. Mike believes the model used in Flamborough, also used in Ancaster and Caledonia, could be successful in addressing Brantford’s summer need.
“This food drive model is run in two parts,” Mike explained. “We go door to door one week, knocking and delivering flyers about the drive. We distribute wish lists provided by the Food Bank and return the following week to pick up the food. People have a few days to shop. It works really well.”
The city of Brantford has been organized into 12 zones. In the first year of the drive, churches in six of these zones covering over half of the city are operational as food drive “hubs.” At these locations, volunteers will organize and sort food.
Heather Vanner, Executive Director of the Brantford Food Bank, hopes this drive will help ensure the non-perishable food stocks in the summer don’t run short. “This means individuals and families accessing the food bank can receive a variety of foods that help them meet their nutritional needs,” she said.
Past success in other communities has been overwhelming and there’s no reason to think it can’t be the same for Brantford. In Caledonia, with a population of 9,000 at the time, over 18,000 pounds were raised! The entire intake in Caledonia for the previous year was a total of 36,000 pounds, meaning that this drive raised half the annual need.
“We were so encouraged by that!” Mike said. “It was an exciting opportunity for volunteering and a great event that brought people together to serve.”
ONEchurch is very excited about the potential of this food drive to bring congregations together to meet a need in the community. Brian Beattie, chair of ONEchurch explained that “it fits with our mandate to participate in the transformation of the city and bring practical, tangible solutions to real issues around us.”
Considering the amount of food typically raised in this kind of drive, the time commitment is relatively light. The day of the drive, the morning is busy with collecting and sorting food, but most people are done by 1:00.
“It’s a whole morning that is abuzz, a lot of fun. There’s usually music playing and it’s a great event that brings people together to serve,” Mike said. “When it’s done you still have your whole day ahead of you – you haven’t lost your Saturday.”
It’s a small commitment that’s needed to meet a big need. Right now the Brantford Food Bank supports an average of 2,328 people each month. 32% of those helped are children and youth under the age of 18. This food drive will be an exciting way to put food in the mouths of needy families in Brantford.
There are many opportunities to participate in what is gearing up to be a historic event in Brantford. Contact the ONEchurch community action team to see how you and/or your church can get plugged in!
For more information email Mike Bosveld at the ONEchurch Community Action Team.