The Medicine Hat and District Food Bank is making some minor adjustments to enhance participant experiences and personal growth to food security. We know that choice is an essential element to housing first practice and leads to independence and success in programming. In the past we have provided move in hampers for housing first clients and our intention is to continue to provide this but to add opportunity for choice. Therefore, we wanted to provide some choices to all of you amazing people working the front lines.
If you have a participant who is moving in to their new home here are some great opportunities to work with us to ensure emergency food is available for your client; (this used to be what we called move in hampers)
We are open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10am- 12pm specifically for workers to come in with their participants to access our choice room. This limits the wait time for both you and the participant. We ask that when you come in, you check in with Member Services to ensure that the participants’ documents are up- to-date. We also ask that you weigh the food you take and print the first and last name of your client and the weight of food on the sign in sheet at the front counter. If it is a first time move in participant, we will provide an extra bundle full of basic household items and the cleaning bucket with all the supplies... just let member services know that this is a new move in when you check in.
We understand that there are times when move ins happen on a Tuesday or Thursday or you don’t have time to do the full shop with your participant, if this happens, we will offer what we are now calling a “1 To Go”. This offers 3-4 days worth of food and if you let us know it is a first time move in, we will provide the extra basic household items and the cleaning items: you can then make your participant an appointment with member services. We have made significant efforts to leave some appointments open so that we can slide your participants through the system quicker.
We also understand that there are times when a participant is released from a hospital, jail or other facility and you must get them into housing and provide food quickly. In these cases, we would again provide a “1 To Go”. The reason we would allow this is because we are trusting that the worker knows the participant better than us and knows the need. We would then have the participant fill out food bank forms and have them go through our intake process to become a food bank member.
Typical food bank programming and usage - What you can tell your participant about some changes you may be seeing here at the food bank. Please keep in mind this is once your participant is settled and moved into their home and you are now looking for a connection point with the food bank for your participant.
1. Membership Cards
We have implemented a membership card system. A first-time walk-in participant will under no circumstances be sent away without food – they will be given a “1 To Go” , which consists of 3-4 days of food - including fresh veggies and milk. They will also be given our paperwork to fill out and bring back to their second appointment. At the second appointment we will provide them with a membership card, which will have the number of times they can shop per month and an expiry date that will then require them to meet with member services again to discuss further eligibility. This is just to ensure that we are up to date on their personal situation.
Again, no first-time participant will be declined for a “1 To Go” regardless of income or situation!
We understand that poverty and emergency need do not fit into a policy box, so we have decided to review each participant on their unique and individual circumstances. Therefore, the second appointment must then be a booked appointment where Member Services will assess income and reason for attending the food bank. Each situation will be reviewed on an individual basis. As well, each participant will be given a membership card, as discussed above, after their documents have been submitted. Income is certainly a part of the equation which is why we continue to ask for bank statements, however, please be assured that LICO or LIMA are not the only factors in assessing need. Also, please keep in mind we are still not turning people away, however, to best support individuals to have food security (which does not mean they attend the food bank indefinitely) we must begin to add personal responsibility, opportunity for system navigation, teaching, personal growth and appropriate boundaries regarding quantity and timeliness of food bank visits.
3. Morning Routine for Worker and their Participants
We provide an opportunity for workers to bring their participants to the food bank Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10am-12pm. When accompanying a participant, we ask that you are aware of your participants needs verses wants. The food bank welcomes all participants to access any items that are not within the participants monthly grocery budget. When taking the participant on their visit, we ask that you walk through the choice room with the participant to ensure all their needs are met. When the visit is finished all food items should be weighed out and recorded on the form at the front desk (please print legibly). Please ensure that the participants membership card is up to date. If the participants membership card has expired an appointment will need to be made with Member Services before their next visit. They may be requested to update their personal information, current situation and financial situation. When all the information has been completed, the participant will then receive a renewed membership card and is welcome to visit with their worker until the card expires again. We encourage you to encourage participants to bring their own bags to their visit. We appreciate your cooperation in this process and value the time you take to adhere to these new procedures.
When workers bring participants to the food bank there are some expectations around what we need from both the participant and the worker. Initially, we expect the worker and participant to have a meal plan ready as well as a budget put in place prior visiting the food bank. The reason we ask participants and workers to have a plan is to encourage participants to move from dependence on the food bank and other systems to actively engaging and practicing in the process of food sustainability.
With a successfully created a meal plan and budget we expect the participant to purchase the bulk of their groceries using their income. We understand that most of the participants have a limited income, and that is ok, we ask that they budget and spend where they are able, and the food bank will willingly provide the supplement.
We ask that workers remember those stocking the shelves are volunteers and deserve the utmost of respect. They are frantically trying to stock shelves so that the 85 or more participants we see in the afternoon have choice of food as well. Please do your best to give them some space to do their jobs and a thank you is very much appreciated!
When initially bringing a participant into the food bank please check with member services
1. To ensure all paperwork is up to date
2. To Ensure that the participant is eligible to attend based on the number of visits per month. We have had an increase in participants coming with workers when they have just been to the food bank a few days beforehand or have already booked and have an upcoming appointment.
We are grateful to have you all as community partners and want to make this work for all of us. We know a collective impact approach is the most effective way to work with our participants to move them out of the system. Food security is not achieved by accessing food bank services as an ongoing answer to hunger. We thank you for participating in our collective mission to end poverty and increase well being by the year 2030.