Orangeville Food Bank marks 30 years in the community with commemorative event

August 11, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Sam Odrowski

The Orangeville Food Bank recently commemorated its 30year anniversary with dignitaries, donors and volunteers, both past and present. 

A small gathering was held on Monday (Aug. 8) at the food bank’s new facility (3 Commerce Rd) that was occupied July 1, 2020, featuring speeches and interactive tours of the building.

Executive Director Heather Hayes recognized the contributions of the Orangeville Food Bank’s volunteers during the event, noting that the organization wouldn’t be what it is without them.

“They are the heartbeat of what we do here every day,” said Hayes. “They provide a soft place for many of us to land. They perform acts of unseen kindness. They are anonymous donators. They champion the food bank in their everyday lives… we could not do what we do without them.”

With roughly 2 million lbs of food and 54,000 visits recorded at the Orangeville Food Bank in the last 10 years, donors and volunteers have been instrumental, said Hayes. She also noted over the same period there’s been a 644 per cent increase in seniors accessing the food bank and a 127 per cent increase in working families needing assistance.

Some of the individuals who started the local food bank in 1992 were in attendance at the anniversary event and received flowers as a small token of gratitude. They included Nancy Rampley, Terri Hunter, Lauretta Brown, and Eleanor Elston.

Shortly after Thanksgiving in 1991 these ladies met in the basement of the Orangeville Public Library to talk about starting up the Orangeville Food Bank. The idea came about after seeing the need for it in the community. 

Elston noted that while the demand for food has grown, it’s always been a well-used service.

“There’s always a need… and I know when I was there, we always made sure the children were looked after first,” said Elston. “We can see by the numbers how much more work there is now compared to when we started out – and it was needed then.”

Rampley, who still volunteers to this day, said the food bank started with about 50 clients, and she’s seen it grow to 700.

The number of volunteers has grown along with the number of people the organization serves, starting with a handful of dedicated individuals and growing into over 150 people today.

The food bank’s location changed over the years to accommodate growth before landing at the new, state of the art facility on Commerce Road. Each location was always along a bus route, with the idea of making transportation easier for clients. 

Rampley noted that in the early years of the Orangeville Food Bank, there was no fresh produce or meat to dispense, which has changed over the years.

“We are now receiving donations of fresh produce from local gardeners and farmers,” she said. “We’ve received donations of ham and turkey from farming associations as well.”

The local food bank started its own garden on a donated plot years ago and it provides part of the fresh produce they offer.

The not-for-profit also switched to a “shopping cart model” about four years ago, based on a points system where clients pick out their own groceries to match their tastes and dietary needs.

Rampley stressed that the success of the Orangeville Food Bank has been a true community effort.

In reference to the many helping hands who assisted the local food bank in buying and converting the 3 Commerce Rd location into what it is today, Hayes noted a famous Aristotle quote, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

“In parts were not very successful, but coming together we become a whole and we made this happen,” said Hayes, of the many donors, trades people, architects, real estate agents, local businesses and community champions who volunteered thousands of hours of labour.

In speaking with Lauretta Brown, who also founded the Orangeville Food Bank, she told the Citizen during her years of volunteering, there were a lot of special moments helping families.

“Seeing the joy on mom’s face when she was able to get a cake for her child’s birthday,” said Brown. “Back then we had other little things donated [apart from food] and we set them aside so that if a child would have a birthday, the mom was able to have something to give to the child. We would sneak them a bag so the kid wouldn’t see it but the mom knew it was there.”

Colleen Egan, who’s volunteered at the local food bank for seven years, said it’s been eye-opening to see the greater need for the service over the last few years and how many people use it.

“Before I started working here, you have a preconceived idea of who is going to come to the food bank, and that has really changed a lot,” she said. “It could be your neighbour.”

Dufferin County Warden Wade Mills shared his remarks during the 30th anniversary commemoration of the Orangeville Food Bank, lauding the progress that it’s made in the new building.

“What you guys are doing here is remarkable,” he said. “Not only are you filling a need, but I mean, it is clear that you have it down to a fine science, or fine art.”

Warden Mills said the cliché of “putting food banks out of business” is a nice thought but until society can get to a point where that is possible, he is grateful the food bank can fill an important gap in the community.

Mayor Sandy Brown, who also attended the anniversary event, delivered a speech commending the Orangeville Food Bank on the service it provides to area residents.

“On behalf of the town council for all the residents of Orangeville, I want to thank the food bank, board and of course, Heather [Hayes] and her unbridled enthusiasm, vision and values that have been brought to our community.” he remarked. “This building is an incredible success story; it must be the envy of every food bank in Ontario. It’s marvelous, all the additional programming you do, that you’re able to put on here.”

The Orangeville Food Bank is launching a new strategic plan for 2022 to 2027, with a refresh of the plan in 2025 to make sure its goals are being reached.

The vision for the plan is building upon work already being done – feeding neighbours, families, and friends in a well-nourished community, said Hayes.

“That’s going to guide our work while our values of inclusiveness, respect, innovation, accountability, and collaboration provides the foundation for that work to come,” she noted.

The local food bank will strive to develop more accessible programs for a diverse community and strengthen partnerships to utilize resources more effectively and reduce food insecurity, Hayes added.

She stressed that advocacy is another important element of the plan and what the food bank does, so less people are in a position where they require their services.

Breaking down barriers for access is a focus as well.

“We’re just going to stretch ourselves to make sure that we get food to people where they need it and when they need it,” said Hayes.

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