In Awe: The Depth and Breadth of Service

It’s probably something about the type of people who want are helpers by nature, that we consistently feel like we’re not doing enough. That is part of what drives us, but can also leave us feeling frustrated, disappointed, and burnt out. That’s why every once in a while it’s important to have a moment like I had this morning.

I was at my desk, working on a funding application. The application form asks me to list our “Primary Activities, Services, and Programs.” I started typing, copying and pasting, and before I knew it I had this incredible list. A list to be in awe of. Within that list is so much nuance, so much work, so many staff and volunteer hours, so many donors, so many, so much…

I had a moment of awe at the amount that this team, this organization, does for this community, the many ways that we fill gaps and help people along. It may just feel like an everyday thing for many of you – all of you who make this organization tick in so many ways – but every once in a while I invite you to join me, to step back, and look at all of the things that we do.

It’s not just the breadth of service, it’s the depth of service. I think more important than what we provide, is how we provide it: without judgement, with generosity, with kindness and compassion, walking with, being of service.

Take a look at this list.


What are your organization’s primary activities, services or programs?

Deeply rooted in the communities we serve, we support people to access healthy food and opportunity. In our downtown Galt location, and with satellites in Hespeler, Preston, and Ayr, we operate several food security programs for our neighbours:

  • Emergency Food Hampers – provides 3 days’ worth of food to families in need. In 2017, we distributed over 14,000 hampers.
  • Food Co-Operative program – a unique, made-in-Cambridge support. Members can access 2 food pickups per month. They contribute $10 per month and a minimum of 4 volunteer hours. Over 10,000 Co-op food pickups were made in 2017.
  • Mike’s Lunch – every Saturday we provide a hot lunch to the community. Last year we served over 3000 lunches.
  • In addition to the above, we operate 4 community gardens which grow over 6000 pounds of fresh local food for our community.
  • We provide food to 21 program partners in Cambridge including shelters and meal programs.

Seeing people holistically, we are distinctly “more than a food bank.” Our broader social and community support initiatives include:

  • Street Outreach – 2 outreach workers walk with people experiencing homelessness
  • Spiritual Care – The Spiritual Care Provider offers personal support, as well as hosting events including grief support groups, visiting people in hospital, a variety of workshops, and performing funerals for those who cannot afford one.
  • Clothing closet – Providing free donating clothing to those we serve
  • Grandparent’s Group – a peer support and social group for grandparents and other family members who are raising kin children
  • CSHFB Wellness Hub – within our main building, we provide space for a range of partners to serve our community, including Sanguen Health Centre, ACCKWA, House of Friendship, SHORE Centre, Community Legal Services, Community Support Connections – Meals on Wheels, White Owl Native Ancestry, and others.

In addition to the above, we fill a number of gaps including providing 600 backpacks and school supplies to kids going back to school, hundreds of families with a Christmas meal and toys for children, gifts for children to give to their single parent, peer health, peer nutrition, and peer mentorship supports, Seniors’ Peer Group, OneVision (accessing free eyeglasses), energy savings applications, and much more.


To all of our staff, volunteers, members, donors, community supporters, cheerleaders, and champions: it’s amazing work that each of you do each day, and I want to share my appreciation. I get to type out this really impressive response to this question, all because of your hard work.

Thank you.

Cameron Dearlove
Executive Director

No Client Zone (Why we stopped using the word client)

From the desk of our Executive Director, Cameron Dearlove

It has now been a month and a half since I have joined the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank, and I continue to leave here each day enriched by my experiences. I feel so lucky to get to spend my days around people who inspire: the people we serve, our dedicated volunteers, our generous donors, and our passionate staff.

I was drawn to this organization particularly because of the people, and the way they approach the work of the Food Bank. Simple interactions are layered with kindness and care. It’s one of the things that makes this place special.

But sometimes our words don’t accurately reflect our actions. Every once in a while I heard people using the word “client” in describing the people we serve. The word felt out of place, and a little bit jarring. It has a coldness that doesn’t match the warmth of the interactions in this building.

If you look up the definition of client, most uses revolve around a professional or customer relationship. It tends to be transactional, with one person providing a professional service for another. Merriam-Webster’s top definition are:

  1. one that is under the protection of another
  2. a person who engages the professional advice or services of another

This isn’t what I see in the work of this organization. Instead of transactional, I see relational. Instead of practitioner to client, I see community member to community member.

When we facilitate the donation of a backpack to a child for school, are they a client? When we walk with someone as they select food items to stock their shelves and crisper drawer, are they a client? When we provide support to access resources – or just a listening ear – to someone experiencing homelessness, are they a client?

Or is it one community member extending a hand to another – not a hand up or hand out, terms we so often use when we think of charities, but a hand shake that says you’re welcome here, you belong here, and we care about you.

So I invite you to challenge us if you hear the “C” word, and suggest to us some alternatives. We are going with “people we serve”, “members”, “participants”, “community members”, “our neighbours”. Even better: how about “people”.

Fresh Food Movement – Why It’s Key To Our Work

By Siobhan Bonisteel, Food Procurement and Local Food Development Manager

Food Banks know that hunger is real for far too many Canadians and that the need must be addressed immediately. But we have to remember that delivering on our social mission is not just about delivering food to those in need. We need to concern ourselves too with a feeling of responsibility to our fellow citizen and caring for those that are the most vulnerable, as well as consider a broader vision of community and sustainability. In that way, The Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank is not just a place to get food when one needs it. For many who use the Food Bank, it is also a place of welcome and dignity. For some, their only place. If people are hungry, you feed them. You feed them because you see them as worth it.

Staff at CSHFB know that this perspective of worth extends further. They know that treating people with dignity and providing them with a place of sharing forms the basis of resilient communities.

For non-users, the vehicle of giving and being part of something bigger than yourself such as by volunteering for a Food Bank allows people the opportunity to grow into better versions of themselves. They learn what is important and what creates meaning in a life. They learn that our actions define us, not our material possessions.

Local food initiatives work in the same way. While local food groups and projects are also concerned with putting food on the plate, projects like the community garden programs that I run at the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank, are places of opportunity that foster self-reliance and help build new relationships that break down social barriers, which extend outside the Food Bank.

Local food is essential to Food Banks because it creates access to the healthiest food on the planet for those that are the least likely to have it while also creating even more opportunities for healthy community to grow.

Rather than just having fresh donated to us from somewhere “out there”, our gardens and local food programs build access and empowerment for us, by us. Community gardens and local food projects have other community benefits too. They increase local food security by decreasing the distance to fresh fruits and vegetables. They also sequester carbon, support pollinator habitats, support food diversity, provide a sustainable food source and teach people where their food comes from.

Local food does all this while also addressing the fact that hunger is urgent and real and ending hunger is completely necessary – digging deep into the very heart of our obligation as citizens of this earth – responsible to each other and all living things. Poverty and hunger are hard topics. Yet, they are totally and completely necessary to talk about and absolutely fixable.

We don’t have to accept hunger and poverty as inevitable. They are human constructions born from an inequitable system, a human system and not a natural law that we must accept. Our local food projects and vision support the current goals of CSHFB while also creating a new way forward for Food Banks across Canada.

With the help of our community partners like The rare Charitable Research Reserve and the Preston Community Garden, we have been able to grow thousands of pounds per year of fresh, organic and local food for our members. Our partnership with the rare Springbank Community Garden (at rare) is responsible for our largest Food Bank garden with over 15 000 square feet of land and a new orchard planted in 2017.

Since reviving this project in 2016 we’ve produced more than 11,000 lbs. of fresh, local and organically grown food for our members. With all of our local food projects, since 2014 including a gleaning program that I founded in partnership with the Preston Community Garden we’ve seen more than 13,000 lbs. of fresh, local and organic food flood through our doors – hundreds of pounds of local fresh fruit has also been diverted from landfills thereby additionally helping to decrease unnecessary waste in our city.

A large percentage of what is grown in our gardens is greens that have low weight (such as kale, spinach, lettuce and Swiss chard). As best we can tell, that’s around 100,000 plates, and that’s significant! Who says food banks only accept non-perishables?

As we continue through the summer season we are working to strengthen our current relationships and expand into new ones with the opening of new garden spaces, the planting of more fruit trees and the expansion of our local food workshops for our members.

On September 12th we will be hosting our “Go Fresh” workshops focused on our gardens, cooking with fresh ingredients, sprouts and preserves. Our co-op garden program also continues with members working the gardens every Wednesday morning. We welcome all of the community in helping us with our efforts.

To join us or to find out more information, please contact me: Siobhan Bonisteel,


29th Annual Community Cornfest

29th Annual Community Cornfest

Saturday, September 8th / 5:30pm /Wanner Mennonite Church

Music, games, chilli cook-off, sausage on a bun, campfire and of course, sweet corn! Entrance is by donation to the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank. Join us as we make the most of one of the last summer Saturday evenings of the season! Bring your own lawn chair!

Aviation Fun Day

Aviation Fun Day

Saturday, August 24th / 10am-4pm / Waterloo International Airport

Come out and enjoy this awesome family-friendly event hosted by the Waterloo International Airport that was created to inspire the next generation of aviation enthusiasts! Experience the fun activities, eat at one of the food trucks, see the incredible air crafts and help out your local food bank. We’ll be there accepting donations.

Coin Harvest

Coin Harvest

Saturday, August 18th
Cambridge Farmers Market / 8am-Noon
Cambridge LCBOS  / 11am-5pm
Cambridge Centre / 11am-4pm

Catch us around town on this summer’s day celebrating this annual summer fundraising event and collecting change to support our programs and services.

The Frying Dutchman Food Truck

The Frying Dutchman Food Truck at the Cambridge Farmer’s Market 

Wednesdays and Saturdays All Summer Long!

The incredible folks at the Frying Dutchman food truck are kicking off their first season with delicious goods like fresh cut fries, poutine, sausages, vegan sausages, avocado toast varieties and more! They’re donating 10% of all their proceeds from sales at the Cambridge Farmers Market to our food bank. Support the food bank and eat delicious summer treats!

Turkstra Lumber Community BBQ’s

Turkstra Lumber Community BBQ’s

Every Friday, Beginning May 11th / 11:30am-1:30pm / 170 Beverly Street, Cambridge

Come out to Turkstra Lumber’s Cambridge location any Friday over the summertime, make a donation to Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank and have a delicious BBQ lunch to kick-off a sunny weekend! We send huge thanks to the folks at Turkstra Lumber for sponsoring these lunches and to their incredible customers for their support!