Re-Framing the Food Bank At Stratford House if Blessing
Stratford, Ontario – August 11, 2020 COVID -19 has changed the landscape of how Stratford House of Blessing has and will continue providing services and programs in the future. To keep everyone safe, including those we serve, our volunteers, our community, and our staff; we are moving to a delivery and appointment model. Most will find the option of delivery something they can easily get on board with, especially with the challenges of transportation, physical distancing and the health and well-being of individuals and their families.
Stratford House of Blessing home delivery drivers getting ready to drive their routes around Stratford (L to R): volunteers Emilie Stanley and Jill An
dress with Renee Nelemans, an employee of Erie St. McDonald’s
Prior to COVID-19 we were already working with volunteer drivers from within our community to provide delivery to people who are physically or emotionally unable to pick up food in person. Unfortunately many of these drivers were seniors belonging to a high-risk demographic. At the same time, when guidelines for the pandemic shut businesses down, local establishments struggled to find alternate ways to keep employees busy while keeping them on the payroll. The solution was to reach out to House of Blessing to see if there was a way their employees could give back to the community. Immediately partnerships were made.
Sandy Andress, volunteer coordinator says, “Through the help of local businesses and a new team of dedicated volunteers who stepped-up to help during the pandemic, we have been able to increase our deliveries to all in need in our community. We are so thankful for all they do!”
With increased deliveries we also needed to increase our capacity. We looked ahead to see how this new delivery model could work in the long-term when our volunteers and their vehicles return to the work-force. The answer was a reliable delivery van that was easy to sanitize, included a fridge and freezer unit, and was outfitted to carry larger food hampers to people across our community.
Theresa McMurray, executive director of Stratford House of Blessing explains “Opportunities came for funding, we submitted our case for support and we are excited that it was approved. The Re-Framing Our Food Bank Model through Increased Delivery project is supported by the Government of Canada’s Emergency Community Support Fund in partnership with the Stratford Perth Community Foundation and the Community Foundations Canada. We are pleased that this funding along with the continued support of our business partners and community allowed us to pivot our food bank program to address food security at a time when needs are and continue to be especially high.”
The benefits of home delivery include access to increased food security, health and hygiene products, and the continued provision of our additional outreach programs such as Off to School Smiling, Baby Welcome Baskets, Healthy Children’s Snacks and the Fresh Start Workwear Program. Food delivery also increases financial wellness by having more money to pay non-food expenses, improves mental health and wellness, increases safety of our vulnerable populations, helps people feel socially included, provides essential nutrients to children and addresses a multitude of transportation challenges.
However, with many changes came some hard decisions. Several of our volunteers are retired or have physical limitations and when everyone was asked to stay home due to COVID we felt it was too risky for them to be here. House of Blessing is essential and stayed open to provide food to those in our community. As we worked through how we could best serve our community and keep everyone safe and healthy, a difficult decision was made to no longer have our clothing rooms.
“We are announcing that donations of clothing and housewares will no longer be taken at House of Blessing. I personally thank our community for blessing our program for many years with their gently used items which have assisted so many people. We are currently reaching out to other partners within the city to see how we can continue helping those who are in immediate need. We have been pleased to see the community finding alternative ways to help each other with clothing during this time and we hope to see this continue,” says Theresa McMurray, executive director.
As we make changes and adjust to our new normal, we remind people to keep checking our website at www.shob.org or our social media pages @StratfordHOB. We encourage anyone who needs food assistance to reach out to us. It’s as easy as calling our office at 519-273-3433, emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or messaging us on Facebook to arrange a delivery or make an appointment.