“Being generous of spirit is a wonderful way to live.” – Pete Seeger

Today, we launch the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank’s Fall Harvest Food Drive, spanning from September 19th until October 19th.

When we launch a food drive, the most obvious place to start is with the need – and the need is great. The Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank serves over 1600 families a month. We distributed over 21,000 Emergency and Food Co-operative hampers to our community last year. We served over 3800 meals through our Mike’s Lunch meal program, and we shipped out nearly 1 million pounds of food to participants and to our 26 partner agencies; the equivalent of over $2.5 million dollars in food.

But numbers only tell a part of the story, as each number represents one of our neighbours. Each number is someone struggling with food insecurity – be it the parent who is just a bit short in between paycheques and needs food to send to school with their child, to the senior struggling to get by on a fixed income, to the person on the street with no kitchen to cook a meal, relying on one meal a day at a community meal program.

If we step outside with our eyes fully opened, we know that the need is great, the challenges more and more complex, the urgency feeling all the more urgent. That’s the reality we see each day at the Food Bank.

But there’s another reality I want to talk about: The generosity of our community.

From my first day in this role I have been overwhelmed by the casual generosity of the people of Cambridge and North Dumfries. I’ve watched as a mother hauls in bag after bag of groceries to donate at our front desk. The churches and community groups and businesses that run event after event to make sure that nobody goes hungry and that kids go to school with a backpack and the supplies they need. The corporations that send their staff to harvest vegetables in our garden. The co-op members who contribute tens of thousands of hours of volunteer time in our community. The individual donor who has signed up to make a $10 a month donation, or having a donor anonymously hand over a $10,000 cheque to make sure our shelves are stocked throughout the summer.

Coming into this role, the need didn’t surprise me. I knew that the need is great. The casual and consistent generosity – that’s something I didn’t expect.

In a short period of time it has impacted me, and even made me change the words I use. I asked Alie, who looks after our social media, to start using the hashtag #GenerousCbridge on posts that celebrate this generosity.

When writing our new website, I peppered the word generosity throughout. On the page that talks about volunteering and donating, I didn’t call it “Volunteering and Donating” as you might expect. I called it “Our Generous Community,” a name that just felt more apt to me.

The generosity of this community has given me so much hope. Our response to overwhelming need is a clear signal of our community’s capacity to care. And care is what this community is built to do.

So let’s do this, Cambridge! Let’s make this Fall Harvest Food Drive our best one yet! Let’s fill up boxes in classrooms, in houses of worship, in workplaces and community centres, let’s get creative and maybe even a little competitive (friendly competition is okay!). Let’s see just how much food and funds we can raise to ensure that nobody goes hungry this fall, that need isn’t met with concern about our ability to meet that need, but with a response that says: we can help. Let’s be the #GenerousCbridge that I know we are.

It says something about a society that allows hunger to exist. It says something very different about a community that steps up to end that hunger. This food drive is an invitation to our community to show what we’re made of. Let’s rise to the occasion – let’s be #GenerousCbridge!