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Innovative thinking goes into keeping this community nourished

The Cambridge Food Bank offers so much more than just food, writes Jill Summerhayes
The food pantry at the Cambridge Food Bank.

Our Cambridge Food bank is very well run.

The last time I recall being in Cambridge Food Bank was several years ago when as a group of volunteers, we were painting the walls. 

During COVID much changed in the building. Now regrettably there are many more people needing their services. This has resulted in staff effectively streamlining their procedures more efficiently.

Our food bank offers far more than just food, but all services are food related. Their mission statement is “building health and belonging through food.”  Their vision is “A compassionate, equitable community where everyone is nourished.” 

This includes learning about nutritious foods, recipes, cooking classes, shopping within your budget. Their core values are “healthy people, environmental, sustainability and connected community.”

Recently, I was invited to attend a luncheon and tour to meet some staff and members of the board of directors, to give the invited guests behind the scenes information as to their overall operation. I was very impressed.

Here are a few examples of their thoughtful, innovative thinking.  


When grocery stores deliver left over produce, sometimes it is not useable, parts of a cucumber or other produce may be soft and mushy and need to be removed. Some is salvageable, some needs to be discarded.  It was costing money to disburse the waste food at the landfill.


Call a pig farmer, get the farmer to pick up the waste for swill that feeds his pigs. Brilliant, every body wins.

In the food pantry where clients go to collect food, the shelves are attractively arranged with products displayed to look more like Farm Boy than a food bank. Labels all facing out, all similar groceries together, makes the whole experience a pleasure.

Hundreds of pounds of food come in and every item is individually checked for expiry dates, dents in tins, torn packages etc. This is sorted and takes many volunteer hours.

They maintain two community gardens so fresh vegetables are offered, no wastage as any not taken by clients while fresh, are made into appetizing soups in their kitchen. Anyone with their own garden and a surfeit of fresh produce is welcome to donate it to the Food Bank.

Menus and recipes are shared, budgeting is taught and how to get the most out of the food you can buy, how to cook meals and stay within your budget.  

All aspects of health and nutrition relating to food are covered.  The Cambridge Food Bank offers so much more than just food.  They educate their clients in food management.

They sell some product from their kitchen at our farmers' market. Jams, loaves, pickles, and other goodies. Reasonably priced all profits go toward the running costs of our Cambridge Food Bank.

Often co- op students come in to complete their 40-hour requirement for community service.  All told there are 397 volunteers including a dozen or so co- op students. After Covid, staff realized some of the students had never learned social skills, they did not look at one another, did not know what a handshake was, so the staff rectified the problem by adding life and social skills to the agenda.

Their request is to “please join us in building a compassionate equitable community where everyone is nourished.”

When the current Cambridge Food Bank was purchased 25 years ago it was hoped that by 2024 no such operation would be required.  Now unfortunately that is far from the case,  it is needed more than ever, and the current building has outgrown its facilities. 

They have no forklift, the hundreds of pounds of food delivered weekly need to be brought in by volunteers, a back breaking job.  Their refrigerator capacity needs to be increased. Their storage facilities enlarged, so next year there will be a huge fundraising effort to raise funds for a more suitable building. Preferably one with at least one loading dock, but still within easy traveling distance of those needing their services.

Under the very capable leadership of Jennifer Germaine-Wright watch for future promotions. It is essential that any donations be designated to include the word  “Cambridge,” to ensure the contents go to us rather than the Waterloo Regional Food Bank (a separate outfit).

Many of the families attending the Cambridge Food Bank have jobs, but rents are so high they leave little money for their food budget.  

Each month the average number of food hampers distributed is $2,500. Over 17,000 people were served fresh affordable produce through their Mobile food market (another innovation) More than 175,000 pounds of food is diverted from the land fill through their food rescue program.

It is sad that this is a requirement but wonderful that our Food Bank is fulfilling their belief that “ Access to nutritious food is a basic and fundamental human right.”

Those of us who are well fed, have a budget that allows for a choice of food we like in our homes, can only imagine how lack of food can affect mental and physical health.  

The volunteers and staff work hard and are to be commended for the hours they gift to help those less fortunate.   

I wish them all the best in their future fundraising and encourage any one able to do so to donate to OUR Cambridge Food Bank. 

If you wish to find out how you might support their excellent cause by helping or making a contribution, you can reach them at 519-622-6550 or on line at