Annual report | Blog
HELP BEYOND FOOD
Steve Benson is a music teacher by profession but these days his time is spent on the phone! He volunteers at the Calgary Food Bank’s Call Centre and helps clients connect with other supports in the community. He’s on the front lines helping Calgarians who need food and may want support beyond an emergency food hamper. On the days that Steve is assigned to the Call Centre, he shares, “Those are good days… I give food and work to reduce worry.” When Steve talks to clients about the support they may need he thinks about our community partners who address the root causes of why they access the Calgary Food Bank. He says, “On those days… I give hope”. He explains in careful detail how each call he makes to people who are struggling is a chance to help them find their way out of the hole. “I’ve been there,” he tells them, “Many people need just one or two or maybe three things to get them out of that hole.” One example Steve retells is of a pregnant teenage mother who was kicked out of the family home. The dad wasn’t in the picture and so this young mom was left on her own to figure out how to provide for herself and her baby. Thankfully the Calgary Food Bank was her first call. Once food was arranged, Steve connected her to other supports.
The Calgary Food Bank’s Community Liaison team works with over 90 programs that can provide additional support to our clients. From help accessing government supports, to mental health, addiction support and even help for their pets; the list is long and helps work towards the goal of fighting the root causes of food insecurity. Steve says that the list of organizations doing incredible work is exhaustive, “It depends on what the client needs. I like to take my time and really hear what is going on so that I can provide some guidance about what will be the most helpful. I don’t like to overwhelm them with a bunch of phone numbers. A lot of the agencies we refer clients to are also extremely busy and are at or beyond capacity, so patience is required.”
Steve recently got off the phone with a single dad who was laid off and needed some support. The single father of three accessed the Calgary Food Bank two years ago but until recently has been able to make ends meet. “People do not want to use a food bank. They are embarrassed and so I reassure them that food, shelter, and dignity are a right. As a volunteer with the Calgary Food Bank, I want to ensure that I’m doing everything I can to support each person that I talk to.”
Before Steve has to dash off to his next shift, he takes a moment to say, “I have the great privilege of volunteering at the Calgary Food Bank and to talk and support the amazing people on the other end of the phone by helping them reach their full potential. Therefore, I feel it’s my responsibility to give my time to help improve the lives of others.”
The Calgary Food Bank has an incredible volunteer force made up of unique individuals. 800 volunteers are required each week in order to meet the demand. Having those volunteers coupled with strong relationships with Community Partners, means great strides can be made; one client at a time, fighting hunger and its root causes.