Food Bank looking for community input on strategic plan

April 22, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Sam Odrowski

The Orangeville Food Bank is looking for the community’s help in putting together its new strategic plan, which will be the organization’s guiding document over the next three to five years.

The food bank’s last strategic plan expired in 2020 and in the past, the plans were put together internally, but because of their expansion to a new and improved facility, as well as the change in their services through the COVID-19 pandemic, executive director, Heather Hayes said its critical to include the community’s input.

A consultant is also being hired to assist in the strategic plan’s development.

“We’ve been small enough in the past to do our own strategic planning, but with the addition of a [new] building, and with so many more programs than we’ve ever had on the go before, and so many more partnerships in the community, this seemed like the time to have somebody give us a hand with that,” explained Hayes.

The clientele of the food bank has been changing since the start of COVID-19, as its seen a concerning rise in individuals accessing their services who indicate their primary source of income is from full-time employment.

“Those are the people that we’re starting to see more of at the food bank. Middle income families that the CERB had been helpful too, but you know, most of us would struggle to pay all of our bills plus feed everybody on that income and perhaps they’ve dipped into lines of credit, and Visas and things like that,” explained Hayes.

“Mortgage deferrals are starting to come to an end as credit card deferrals are starting to come to an end and it’s those individuals who we’re seeing more of that just – they have no more resources to access anymore,” she added.

“As the pandemic in the third wave sort of progress, we’ll be seeing more individuals who need who need that kind of help.”

With the type of clients accessing the food bank changing, it’s important for the community to have their say on the food bank’s direction over the next three to five years through its new strategic plan.

For the plan, Orangeville Food Bank will be asking residents to complete a survey regarding their services. The survey will be posted to the food bank’s website, and social media accounts in the near future.

“I’m sure people are dead tired of surveys at this point but it’s an easy way for us, an accessible way for us, to be able to take in people’s information and their experiences with the food bank,” said Hayes.

“Help us understand what are the pieces that we’re doing well and what are the pieces we could be doing better? What are the needs out in the community that maybe we’re not aware of, that need to be looked at and investigated? It’s a chance to interact and continue to make this service better.”

A focus group will also be facilitated over Zoom around the end of June or if COVID-19 permits, a physically distanced outdoor discussion to help inform the strategic plan.

One on one interviews with community members, customers, volunteers, and local social service agencies will be conducted as well to help develop the plan.

Hayes said the food bank’s goal is to have the strategic plan completed by July or August.

When looking ahead to the post-pandemic world, when payment deferrals and government benefits come to an end, social service agencies, such as the Orangeville Food Bank, are very concerned about the impact it will have on clients and people who were just getting by.

“When CERB ends, when the evictions are back on the table and people could potentially lose their homes, we’re going to see a bigger need here at the food bank.”

If the bills start piling up and assistance is needed, Hayes says the food bank is great place to land, where they can help put people get on a solid path forward. However, it is critical that people who are struggling financially go to the food bank for assistance early, before things worsen and it becomes too late.

“We see people coming to us at the very end, when there’s not as much that can be done to support them, but if they reached out in the beginning, if you reach out now, we not only can help you with food, but we can make sure you’re connected to all of those [support services],” said Hayes. “Lots of people don’t know about the programs that the County has or that the government has that that might be helpful to them from a financial standpoint.”

Hayes reiterated the importance of participating in their upcoming survey and said to watch out for it on their website and social media channels.

“I think for us it’s just so important to have community input into a community service. I know we all hate doing surveys, and that sort of thing, but without the public’s input, we don’t know what we don’t know, and we just want to make this the best service that it can be,” she remarked.

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