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Stratford House of Blessing – A food bank and more

Food ‘Bank’ with Dignity

Stratford House of Blessing is most known for its community food bank.

The food bank has been running since 1983 and serves Stratford and surrounding rural areas. At the House of Blessing, we believe in helping everyone who comes through our doors, and even if out of area, we will help people immediately and then refer to a food bank in their own community. We never want anyone to go hungry.

Molly MacDonald, intake coordinator, providing a food bag for a client who is struggling with homelessness

Molly MacDonald, our intake coordinator explains, “We are a food ‘bank’. We are here for you to make deposits when you have extra, through your donations. We are also here for you to make withdrawals when you need to, by accepting a food hamper.”

Her goal, as the first person to see people who arrive at our door or call in, is to treat people with dignity and make sure they are comfortable receiving help.

Our food bank works in various ways depending on an individual’s or family’s unique situation.

If a person does not have access to refrigeration, cooking facilities, or is carrying their belonging on their back, then they are welcome to access our food bank on an as needed basis. The food they receive will then be even more specific to their unique needs. Whereas, if they have housing and a kitchen, they can choose their food online for home delivery or come in and choose food with the help of a volunteer.

People are often surprised that we give out fresh and frozen items in our food bank. We work diligently to procure food from grocery stores, farmers, gardeners, Food Banks Canada, Feed Ontario and other members of the food industry.

The goal is that people who access our food bank receive the same food you would put on the table for your family. We have grown our capacity and infrastructure so that we can handle your donations. Please give!

Children’s Programs to Increase Equality

Children are of core importance to the staff and volunteers of Stratford House of Blessing. We know they are our future and therefore strive to provide children who access our services with opportunities to improve their circumstances at key stages in their lives.

Welcome to the World Baskets:
To celebrate the birth of new babies, we present families with a Welcome to The World Basket. This is a baby shower in a basket and includes new clothing, blankets, facecloths, newborn diapers, hygiene products and a baby book.

We run this program through the generous support of the Kiwanis Club of Stratford’s Young Children Priority One Grant. Parents who receive this basket are often overwhelmed with joy; some even say with tears in their eyes that we are the first to congratulate them on their new little one.

Diapers and Formula:
We consider diapers and formula a necessity; one that should be accessible for all babies. Diapers and formula have become increasingly expensive, and formula cannot be safely substituted by other means.

This program is funded by the City of Stratford Social Services and administered by Stratford House of Blessing to six food banks in Perth County. We do the purchasing and distribution for all these food banks and report back to Stratford Social Services.

Pictured are summer interns Natalie Bice, Off to School Smiling program coordinator and Aleah Graff, marketing assistant displaying donated backpacks. We are especially in need of backpacks this year.

Off to School Smiling:
The start of school is an especially challenging time for families, and their children, who are struggling financially. Everyone wants to be able to provide their kids with a new backpack and school supplies but for some this is out of reach.

This program endeavours to decrease inequality between children and their more affluent peers by providing these tools for learning. We are dependent on donations from our community to provide a backpack and age-appropriate school supplies to over 300 children each year.

Christmas Toy Program:
Christmas is a time of year where families’ anxieties are on the rise. Social media, television, and culture bombards children with ideas about what would be great to add to a Christmas list. When money is tight and there is no sign of relief, these requests can be overwhelming. The tradition of Christmas and the exchange of gifts is a deeply engrained part of our society, and most families want to participate.

This program invites parents to come in and ‘shop’ at no cost for toys, games, art kits, stuffed animals, mitts, toques, and stocking stuffers so that all children will have presents under the Christmas tree. Last year we provided gifts for 738 children.

Healthy School Snacks:
A program we are always looking for supporters for is our healthy school snacks. In addition to the foods each household receives, our goal is to provide additional healthy snacks for children and their families. Foods we seek to add are fresh fruits, fresh vegetables (carrot sticks and celery), and protein snacks like yogurt and cheese.

We hope that in addition to the provision of extra nutrition for children, there are also these benefits: introducing families to healthy snack choices, making possible the development of a lifetime of nutritious eating habits, and providing children with supplemental nutrition that will enable growth, development, and enhance their ability to learn and concentrate.

We Want to Help You

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you need help. Even if you aren’t sure we can help, we can answer your questions and help determine next steps.

Visit our website to learn more about all our programs and services; phone 519-273-3433, email or message us on our social media channels @StratfordHOB to get in touch.

You can also drop into at our location: 423 Erie Street, Stratford (beside the train tracks). We will always treat you with dignity and respect.

It Takes a Village: We Need Your Help

Your partnership in helping Stratford House of Blessing to help others is vital to the success of our programs in reaching people in need.

We continue to need your help as numbers rise and programs grow to meet this rising need. We have had a 42% increase in people accessing the food bank in the past year alone. Please consider these ways of helping:

  • Donation of funds visit
  • Donation of food and program supplies visit
  • Donation to Empty Bowls auction
  • Volunteers needed: delivery drivers, food pickers, cleaners, and fundraising volunteers
  • Request a speaker for your group
  • Sponsorship of events or programs
  • Host a 3rd party fundraiser

To connect with us about these and other ways to get involved please contact us.

Varrick and Serena - Food Bank
Varrick Grimes, volunteer, is enthusiastically packing food based on a food bank recipient’s choice. Peeking out behind him is Serena Carley, House of Blessing’s delivery coordinator.