By Garit Reid – Lucknow Sentinel
The North Huron Community Food Share chairman Gordon Kaster always reminds people that hunger has no age limit and the food share is there to help anyone in need.
2012 is a brand new year and another year where people will use the food share in Wingham, not because they want to, but because they have to. Operations manager Joyce Johnston said all judgment should be set aside because when it comes down to it people use the food share not for a handout, but in order to feed themselves and their families.
“One thing you can’t be here is judgmental. We don’t always know the reason people need to use the food share, all we know is they need our help,” said Kaster. Johnston added, “Everyone has a story and I have heard some of them and they are stories you could hardly even fathom. There are so many stresses in this world that the average person has a hard time coping with sometimes. Nobody is perfect and we are here to provide a service for people in need and that’s the bottom line.”
Johnston said about 125 families used the food share in December and on average about 90 people a month use the service. She said she would like to see this number lower, but the way of the economy and the lack of new jobs in the area she said it’s a trend that will continue. Johnston added that with the high number of people using the food share, it couldn’t be done without the help of local donations, sponsors and the help they get from the Exeter Distribution Centre.
“We are really blessed in this community, we have some great financial supporters who help us out and a lot of private donations really going a long way in sustaining us over the year,” said Johnston. “The Exeter Distribution Centre provide food for the 11 food banks in Huron County. They deliver to us at least once a month and bring us food. We couldn’t keep things going without them. They pick up the slack when donations don’t quite make ends meet. They have really helped us out these past few years.”
Education has been a positive thing noted Kaster who has seen an increase in donations from local schools through the various programs they have put on. He is also impressed with the number of kids who take it upon themselves to ask for donations for their birthdays instead of receiving presents. He said it really shows the compassion from the community.
“I really think the education they are doing in the schools is working well because the kids who are coming up now are already aware of the need in the community for things like a food share,” said Kaster.
Johnston said they wouldn’t be able to do the day-to-day if it weren’t for the tireless work of volunteers. She said they really do a good job of making people feel comfortable when they come in and you can see the compassion they have as they do their job.
“We are also really blessed with a large volunteer base. You find once you start volunteering here it soon becomes a passion and it gives people a real sense of purpose to do it,” said Johnston. “They do all they can to help out and make someone’s life a little easier. The volunteers and I also try to make things as comfortable as possible in the light of a bad situation.”
Johnston said making food available for people is important, but at the same time people are in need of other things, which is why they also ask for personal hygiene products like toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, toilet paper, etc to be donated as well. Johnston said it’s a secondary cost that people don’t think about as much as food, but they are products that add up in cost.
Eating healthy is also something that the food share focuses on because Johnston said sometimes delivering nutritious meals can be difficult on a budget. It’s why Johnston provides people with a list of recipes that are simple and made from the things they provide at the food share. She said they are inexpensive recipes that provide healthy meals.
Johnston and Kaster said they are very appreciative of donations that are given to the food share and said they could arrange for pick up of any donation that can’t be delivered to them.
Kaster said he would like to see a future where there isn’t the need for a food share, but he said that it’s unlikely.
“It’s too bad we have to have a food share, but it’s a great thing we have a food share,” said Kaster. “We will never see the elimination of food banks and I don’t see for the foreseeable future much of a decline in the number of people who need the service.”
Johnston added that she would like to see better transportation in rural areas and more affordable housing. She says it’s a big expense for a lot of these clients and it would be a huge way to cut costs for them.
“We are finding in the last three to four years that by public speaking, letters to the editor, etc that we are raising awareness for what we are all about,” said Kaster.
The North Huron Community Food Share covers the areas of Wingham, Blyth, Brussels, Walton, Bluevale, Wroxeter, Teeswater, Lucknow and all of the areas in between. For any information or donations, you can contact the food share at 519-357-4833. The food share is located at 405 Josephine Street, Wingham (behind Upper Deck Youth Centre).