Champions present at the HOL Hunger Awareness wrap-up meeting were front from left, Kim Sheldrick, Lois Lannin and Cathy Ashby. Back from left, Matthew Gates, Mark vanDelst and Tony Fraser. Sawyer Helmer photo
Kalynn Sawyer Helmer
MOUNTAIN — For the second year now the House of Lazarus brought awareness to hunger action month by bringing the Hunger Awareness Challenge to the community. From Sept. 10 to Sept. 14, hunger awareness champions were allocated food from a food bank and could only eat that food for the duration of the challenge along with $10 of their own money they could spend on anything else.
The volunteer champions for 2018 were Mike Barkley, Maggie Boyer, Breckyn Fowler, Tony Fraser, Matthew Gates, Lois Lannin, Jonny Parks, Tanya Philion, Kim Sheldrick, Barb Tobin and Mark vanDelst.
On Thurs., Oct. 4 at Knox Presbyterian Church, some of the champions came together to speak about their experiences during the challenge. Present were Mark vanDelst, HOL board of directors, Tony Fraser, North Dundas councillor and mayoral candidate, Kim Sheldrick, Osgoode Ward council nominee, Matthew Gates, pastor at South Gate Church and Lois Lannin, HOL volunteer.
Lannin, a resident of Chesterville explained, her part in the challenge came from seeing clients come and go during her volunteering and wanting to be more informed. Others like Fraser and Sheldrick hope to use their platform to bring more awareness to hunger issues.
The plunge into the world of hunger begins right away, being required to answer the survey for first-time users. Each found the questions to be very personal. Executive director, Cathy Ashby explained, the information collected goes to the Ontario Association of Foodbanks to be reviewed. The answers do not mean anyone could be turned away, but can help food banks provide better services. Ashby said many are very willing to give their information when they know it could make a difference.
For the champions, meal planning and good preparation was a must to get through the week. Each of the four champions at the meeting agreed that food and meals were always on their minds.
Much like last year, champions noticed the significant effect of a lot of carbohydrates in their diets. By the second day, some reported feeling lethargic. Despite more availability of fresh produce this year due to the food banks efforts, carbohydrates were necessary to draw out the meals so champions would have enough for the week. For Gates, he found the experience encouraged him to donate better quality foods and to tell others the same.
The other side of the challenge sees champions feel the social and emotional effects of hunger. VanDelst said it was a “very isolating experience. For that week I was eating out of necessity not enjoyment.”
Much of what the awareness challenge aims to do is break the stigma against people who use the food bank and using the food bank. Ashby explained that only about 1/3 of clients come to use the food bank monthly, which is the maximum an individual may use the service. Another 1/3 of clients are situational and the last 1/3 use the food bank roughly five to six times a year. “We don’t see the abuse of the system. It is a stereotype that is not happening,” said Ashby.
What is happening, is help when it is needed. As vanDelst noted, “nobody does it on their own.”