More than a Food Bank

Community Impact


Think that the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank is only a food bank? Think again!
In addition to our food security and individual, family, and community programs, we also deliver a range of supports and initiatives that create opportunities for children and families, build relationships and community connections, and help people experiencing poverty through some of the harder times of the year. In short, these supports are works of the heart.

Christmas and Holiday Support

The holiday season is a big time at the Food Bank. In addition to being our busiest time and time of greatest need, it is also when we reach out to our community and find the incredible generosity that funds our work throughout the year.

Each year is different, but here are a few of our typical Holiday Supports:

  • A Christmas meal and toys for children are offered to individuals or families who are living on CPP, EI, WSIB, or low-income employment earnings. We work in partnership with Cambridge Salvation Army and the Cambridge Firefighter Basket Fund, who provide the same support for individuals and families who receive Ontario Works or ODSP.
  • We also try to offer a small toy to grandparents living with low-income, who have grandchildren ages 7 and under.
  • We also try to offer a single parent night, where children from single-parent families can come in and select new gifts for their parent in Santa’s Workshop.

Our Holiday Support is funded by the generosity of our individual, group, and corporate donors.

Backpacks for Bookworms

*This year we will not be distributing backpacks from our building do to COVID-19. This year any backpacks and school supplies that are donated will be given to community centres. Please contact your local community centre to receive a backpack.*

Backpacks for Bookworms is an annual program run by the CSHFB that provides children with the supplies they need just in time for back-to-school. Backpacks are collected and stuffed with essential school supplies such as lunch bags, pencil cases, and reusable water bottles. The backpacks are filled with age-appropriate supplies, and are provided to students of a variety of ages, from kindergarten to grade 12.

The CSHFB has been running Backpacks for Bookworms for over 15 years. The program had humble beginnings, originally providing backpacks to a handful of kids. Today, we provide approximately 600 backpacks to children from families living on a low-income. Watch for Backpacks for Bookworms registration in August, and consider organizing a backpack collection event in your community!

Our Backpacks for Bookworms is funded by the generosity of our individual, group, and corporate donors.

Seniors’ Group

The Seniors’ Group is a peer to peer support group that meets weekly. The group holds workshops and activities focusing on the needs and health of people aged 55+. Activities include potlucks, board games, guest speakers, and field trips to the market.

Our Seniors Group is funded by the generosity of our individual, group, and corporate donors.

Mentor Program

Offered once per year, the Mentor Program delivers six half-day skill-building workshops. Participants are individuals interested in taking on leadership roles within the Food Bank. Mentors volunteer within the Food Bank, offering vital human resources, and provide guidance and support to individuals new to accessing our supports.

Our Mentor Program is funded by the generosity of our individual, group, and corporate donors.

Birthdays and New Baby

In partnership with the Family Outreach Worker from the House of Friendship, we offer Birthdays in a Box. When supplies are available, this includes a cake mix, icing, candles, loot bags, party decorations, and a gift for the birthday child.

For an expecting parent, the Family Outreach Worker can provide a range of supplies and resources to help in the arrival of a new baby.

The Birthdays in a Box and New Baby Box is supported through the Family Outreach Program.

Food Bank Gardens

From field to Food Bank to fork, our gardens are about more than food. This is our community growing food for our community.

We know that hunger is real for far too many people in Cambridge and North Dumfries. In addition to delivering food to those in need, the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank also has a responsibility to consider the broader vision to community and sustainability. We see our gardens not only as a source of fresh, organic, healthy, and local food, but also as places of opportunity to gain new skills, achieve greater physical, mental, and spiritual health, and build new relationships that break down social barriers.

Our gardens don’t just feed people in our community. They feed community.

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 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 have produced more than 12,000 lbs. of fresh, local, and organically grown food for our members. With all of our local food projects, we’ve seen more than 14,000 lbs. of fresh, local and organic food flood through our doors since 2014. 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?

We continue to look to strengthen and expand our relationships, and invite new volunteers, including community and corporate groups, to get their hands dirty with us.

To learn more about the Food Bank Gardens, contact Siobhan at extension 202 or email us at

The Food Bank Gardens initiative is made possible by the generosity of our individual, group, and corporate donors.

Did you know:

That you can register to have the unwanted fruit from your backyard fruit trees gleaned? This way you won’t have food waste, and the unwanted fruit will be redirected to the Food Bank. It’s a win-win! Register by contacting us or the Preston Community Garden.

Garden Partners


You don’t grow 14,000 pounds of light greens without some amazing community partners. The following partners are essential to the Food Bank Gardens.

Rare Charitable Research Reserve– Over 15,000 square feet of garden and orchard space are provided to us at the Springbank Community Garden.

Preston Community Garden – A community garden space in Preston with a number of plots devoted to the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank

Hope Garden– Our newest garden is in partnership with VIG Computers and the Islamic School of Cambridge

Giving Garden– An independently run garden in Cambridge who gives generously to our Food  Bank.

Did you know:

You can grow a row? Love to grow fresh fruits and vegetables? Love to share? Let us know if you want to “Grow a Row” in your garden for the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank!

Seeds of Diversity– A win-win partnership. Seeds of Diversity grows food with us at our rare garden, saves the seeds, and gives us the leftover produce! They also run free seed saving workshops which are open to our members.
This is a very important partnership because it means that our gardens have also become a space where we participate in saving the genetic diversity of our food system, helping to preserve food for future generations. It also means that we have been able to participate in national studies about what grows best in our climate. This is important information for food security and climate change adaptation. It is also a unique innovation for a food bank, because we are working to understand how best to feed people not just today, but into the future.

Idea Exchange, Preston Branch Seed Sharing Program– We work with Idea Exchange to distribute seeds to the community through the new seed sharing program that was founded by the Preston Community Garden, Seeds of Diversity, and the library. rare Charitable Research Reserve is also a partner in this initiative.

Further to this we work with many, many corporate groups and community members in the gardens. We also run a co-op garden program on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. throughout the growing season. We also have worked with our local farmers’ markets to bring in fresh food donations.

We are always open to new ideas and partnerships that will support local, organic, healthy foods coming to our food bank members!

Did you know:

In 2017 we had over 550 people hours from corporate groups alone at our gardens at rare.

Since 2015, we have grown over 14,000 pounds of fresh, local, organic food for our Food Bank members!

Vision for the future

This website provides a glimpse into what the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank is today. But it didn’t look quite like this yesterday, and it will look a little different tomorrow.

Close your eyes.

What does the food bank of tomorrow look like to you? What does a food bank that is deeply rooted in the community look like in one month, one year, one decade?

Are we providing programs and services within a building, or does our work seep out throughout the community, meeting people where they are, and impacting each corner of Cambridge and North Dumfries?

Do you see us not just feeding people, but feeding community, weaving community development and building interconnections through everything we do?

Is our work driven not by the desire to provide charity, but to work towards justice and equity?

Do we use the word sustainability only around budget time, or are we measuring and mitigating our environmental impact? Do we see the connection between our environment, climate change, and food security locally and globally?

Are we striving for health equity in the food we procure and share? When you think about the food bank, are you as likely to think about organic and locally grown food as canned food on a shelf?

Do we concern ourselves only with food we procure and distribute, or are we supporting people and communities to move towards food sovereignty?

When we meet you, do we see a person looking for food, or do we see a whole and unique person? Do we provide you with a program that you need to fit into, or do we put ourselves at service, walking with you on your journey?

Lastly, have we realized that at its heart, the work of the food bank is not driven by food alone, but by relationships and interconnectedness?

Do you share this vision? What do you see, and what would you change?

What is your vision for the food bank of the future? Won’t you join us, get involved, and weave your voice into our collective vision?