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People and programs 03/13/2024

In the early 1990s, a small and passionate group of community members in Pointe-Saint-Charles, Montreal embarked on a mission to support locals who urgently needed access to food.

Since then, Share The Warmth has continued to deliver food and youth programs that are responsive to and nourish the community’s needs.

This year, Share The Warmth is marking ten years as a member of the Good Food Organization (GFO) community at Community Food Centres Canada. This network comprises over 350 like-minded community food organizations that access training and grant opportunities, share best practices, and attend partner gatherings. 

Julie Poirier, Director of Food Security programs at Share The Warmth, reflects on the organization’s journey as a GFO. This journey also shows how Share the Warmth is applying the Good Food Principles, a set of values that Community Food Centres Canada and GFOs share.  

Adapting to community needs

Since its early days, Share The Warmth has adapted its approach to the diverse needs of the communities it serves. 

For example, Julie recalls, “Before, we had food hampers already made up for people.” The food was mostly limited mostly to non-perishable items. However, recognizing the importance of choice, the organization began tailoring its programs for the community.

This change put into action two Good Food Principles: investing in the power of good food and meeting people where they’re at.

“We put in a lot of work to offer people choice,” Julie says. “Our members have filled out surveys and questionnaires, telling us what food and programs they want to see.” 

Julie also recounts a time when some community members shared that “they had between $1 and $4 to buy fruits and vegetables at the store.” These individuals expressed a desire for fresh produce, milk, and eggs. 

In response, Share the Warmth adapted their food programs to be able to offer fresh food alongside non-perishable goods. This range of fresh and non-perishable goods continues to this day. 

“As long as people decide what they want to eat, that’s just fine with us,” Julie states.

Having community members be decision-makers reflects another cornerstone of Share the Warmth’s work: a commitment to dignity and respect. This commitment aligns with another Good Food Principle: creating an environment of respect and community leadership.

“Respect and dignity—these are super important concepts,” Julie emphasizes. “It’s not just the choices we offer people, but the way we do it.” For Julie, it’s essential for Share the Warmth to be thoughtful and intentional in encouraging community members to shape the programs and food choices on offer.

Collaborating and finding common ground

Finally, there is strength in collaboration through the GFO community. The network allows Share the Warmth, along with their fellow GFOs, to find common ground with each other. The GFOs share experiences, and encourage and advise each other on strategies to support their communities and to advocate for public policies that address food insecurity.

“We have lots in common with other local food organizations, and it’s fun to work together, to see what each other is doing, as groups experiencing the same challenges,” Julie says. 

Right now, the national rate of food insecurity is the highest it’s ever been: one in five people are experiencing food insecurity. With the community food sector under unprecedented strain, finding common ground within the GFO network is all the more important: “The community’s needs are so immense. The GFO community makes us feel like we are not alone.”

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