Community need for food bank seen daily by Waterloo Regional Police

When Waterloo Regional Police officers are called out, often the reasons behind those calls relate back to basic needs of society, such as food and shelter, says Chief Bryan Larkin.

'We have to do more for those who are in need,' Chief Bryan Larkin says

Waterloo Regional Police officers drop off a donation of food at The Food Bank of Waterloo Region. (WRPSToday/Twitter)

Many of the calls for service to the Waterloo Regional Police are related to basic needs like shelter and food, according to Chief Bryan Larkin.

And now the force is joining a campaign started by the Waterloo Fire Department to collect donations to the food bank all year long.

Looking at root causes is a way to steer away from using a "reactive approach to public order and crime," Police Chief Bryan Larkin told Craig Norris, host of The Morning Edition on CBC Radio Tuesday.

"How do we solve this? And food – and access to food – is a really major issue in our community."

"We live in an awesome region with lots of great things happening, but – that's the big keyword, there's three dots and then 'but' – we have to do more for those who are in need," Larkin said. "The need's there."

Waterloo Regional Police Chief Bryan Larkin in the Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest parade. He said while police regularly help with food drives at special occasions - including the Oktoberfest drive - they wanted to do more to collect donations all year. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

'So grateful'

The food bank project was first started by the Waterloo Fire Department in early 2015, where people can drop off donations at all fire halls in Kitchener and Waterloo every day as part of the "Fire to Food Bank" project.

Now the Police to Food Bank project, run in partnership with the City of KItchener and the Waterloo Fire Department, will see all police stations in the region collect donations for the food bank every hour of the year.

Cambridge Fire raises donations for the Cambridge Self Help Food Bank while the Township of Wellesley Fire department collects for two rural programs, the Wilmot Family Resource Centre and Woolwich Community Services.

Waterloo Fire Chief Richard Hepditch, who first had the idea for this project, has been open about his family relying on the food bank during tough times.

It wasn't easy for him to speak about his childhood, but when he realized he could help raise awareness for the food bank, he knew he needed to share his experience.

"I think I just started reflecting more on how fortunate I am to have people who support me — oftentimes strangers," Hepditchtold CBC K-W during the 2014 Sounds of the Season kickoff show, just ahead of launching Fire to Food Bank.

"You realize as an adult why I have so much gratitude and why I am so grateful and why I entered into the public service. It's because I was supported by communities in communities and organizations such as the food bank." 

Listen to the whole interview with Waterloo Regional Police Chief Bryan Larkin:

Half a million food bank users

A report last month by the Ontario Association of Food Banks noted the high cost of housing and insufficient social assistance meant nearly half a million people in this province turned to a food bank at least once between April 1, 2016 and March 31 of this year.

The association's executive director Carolyn Stewart called those numbers "staggering."

In eight of 10 sample communities, the report said the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment would cost more than 100 per cent of the income received by someone receiving Ontario Works.

"It's virtually impossible for them to be able to afford rent and then be able to afford all the other basic necessities," Stewart said.

"People are having a lot of challenges to make ends meet, so it's really driving people to really need the food bank."

Larkin said his officers see it on a daily basis and they want to help.

"We just saw this as another opportunity to raise awareness. But more importantly, our members every single day see the impact that the food bank has on our community and the great work that the people there do," Larkin said. He noted even a donation of $1 can go a long way.

"All these little small amounts create big change."


Sounds of the Season 2017

The holiday season has arrived again. The region is buzzing with holiday markets and there are festive decorations lighting up the streets. But not everyone in Waterloo region is filled with a sense of hope this holiday season.

All month long, we here at CBC Kitchener-Waterloo are raising food and funds for The Food Bank of Waterloo Region.

Get more details on our Sounds of the Season page.


Police Stuff a Cruiser event

Waterloo Regional Police are hosting a Stuff A Cruiser event Dec. 9 and 10 at various locations in Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge.

Toys donated during the event will go to the New Toys for Needy Kids program by the Waterloo Knights of Columbus.

Clarifications

  • The original story did not mention the efforts of Cambridge Fire and the fire department in Wellesley township. It has been updated to reflect those efforts.
    Dec 07, 2017 6:26 AM ET