Culturally-specific foods in demand at Waterloo Region food banks

Food bank use is going up, and so is the demand for foods suitable for different culturally-specific diets.

House of Friendship says many families using food assistance are immigrants

Wendi Campbell from The Food Bank of Waterloo Region says 17 per cent of requests from food programs are for culturally-specific foods. (Amanda Grant/CBC)

The need for culturally-specific foodbank items is growing in Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge, according to the House of Friendship and the Food Bank of Waterloo Region

"We have seen an increase in general in people coming in for food assistance," said Linda Kruger, community resource coordinator. "Many of those families are immigrants."

Kruger was speaking to Fauzia Mazhar, The Morning Edition's first community co-host on CBC Radio.

Fauzia Mazhar, the first community co-host, interviewed Linda Krugar from House of Friendship Friday morning. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

Kruger said their emergency food hamper program has seen more requests for halal food, rice, beans and fish. Demand for foods for diabetic and gluten-free diets have also increased.

Wendi Campbell, the executive director at the Food Bank of Waterloo Region said though they have received these types of requests on occasion over the years, they've grown in frequency and needs are more diverse.

One example she gave was a food program requested for more coffee in place of peanut butter, because the clients they serve didn't grow up with peanut butter and it was not part of their regular diet.

"What we're seeing now, especially with the recent refugee population that's moved into our community, 17 per cent of the request for food that we get from our programs are about culturally-specific diets," Campbell said.

On the website for House of Friendship, it says the program will try to include foods appropriate for users' health and cultural needs upon request.

Community response

To respond to the changing needs, the community is stepping forward.

People are donating produce from their community gardens, where Kruger said in 23 plots, there are 14 ethnic backgrounds represented.

"We're aware of partnerships growing with food bank, because we're seeing more halal food coming, we're seeing more fish coming, those are very tangible and specific responses to the need."

CBC Kitchener-Waterloo launches its annual Sounds of the Season food bank drive, raising food and funds for the Food Bank of Waterloo Region on Dec. 1, 2017.


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