MOUNTAIN – Participants in the 2018 Hunger Awareness Challenge came together, each of them being dubbed a “champion” Thurs., Oct. 4 at Knox Presbyterian Church in Mountain to talk about their experience.

There were 11 community members who took part in the challenge.

Participants agreed to live off the food items provided in the House of Lazarus (HOL) food bank or the Community Food Share Food Bank. It was enough for a single person for five days.

The challenge took place the week of Sept. 9 to 15, to bring awareness to the issues faced by individuals who suffer from hunger or who lack access to fresh and nutritious food.

It also tied into September being Hunger Awareness Month.

Nutrition, availability of fresh produce, hunger awareness and community support were mentioned as issues participants thought about as they took part in the challenge.

Some members of the 2018 Hunger Awareness Challenge hosted by the House of Lazarus gathered at Knox Presbyterian Church on Thurs., Oct 4, to discuss their experience. First row, left to right are: Kim Sheldrick, Lois Lannin and Cathy Ashby. Back row, left to right are: Matthew Gates, Mark vanDelst and Tony Fraser. Press Photo – Morin

North Dundas Councillor Tony Fraser was a returnee from last year’s challenge. He said, “ The change I saw from last year was the fresh produce.” The ability of the food bank to make fresh vegetables more available has increased. Fraser said he believed the access to fresh vegetables resulted in him having more energy.

Community gardens, such as the St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church in Winchester and the HOL garden are able to contribute to the list of fresh produce available to clients.

The consensus among the group was, increased awareness about the (HOL) food bank and Community Food Share, and nutrition in general, had resulted in food donations adding to the variety of food items available to clients.

Executive Director of HOL, Cathy Ashby said, “Giant Tiger in Kemptville is donating weekly, 20 to 40 pounds of food. Our clients are loving that they have more choice.”

Ashby said the next step was collecting recipes that included the kind of food available at the food bank.

She said a dietician from the Eastern Ontario Health Unit was creating recipes based on the actual food items that were available.

All of the participants agreed that knowing how to combine what was available to them was crucial to providing a nutritious meal. Some admitted they struggled with making tasty food combinations with what they were given.

Kim Sheldrick from Vernon also took part in the challenge. Her concern was that people who were familiar with cooking and food preparation might have a better result making what little they had in their kitchen go a long way.

Ashby agreed, pointing out the food bank has an abundance of chick peas. “Clients do not always know what to do with them,” she said.

Mark vanDelst, a HOL board member, also took part in the challenge. One of his concerns was the isolation clients must feel because of their circumstance. “This was a very isolating experience. You take it for granted,” he said.

He said his family has several traditions surrounding their eating schedule including making a weekly meal plan and eating together. All of those situations were put by the wayside as he took part in the hunger challenge

“For that week it was just mechanical and depressing,” he said.

Sheldrick said she thought about food all week long. She said she realized she had to come up with some kind of plan to fully take advantage of the food bank’s generosity.

Another participant, Matthew Gates, the pastor of Southgate Church’s Winchester campus felt the challenge opened his eyes to what people feel as they struggle to feed their families and themselves in dire situations.

He said he experienced some of the real aspects of poverty.

Ashby commented that clients at the food bank can be divided into three basic categories. Those who are regular weekly visitors. Those who only come when their situation demands it and those who come every few months when they can no longer work through their own rough patch when it comes to affording to put food on their table. She said abuse of the food bank was minimal.

Lois Lannin, a volunteer and participant, felt awkward using the food bank. She said she felt she was taking time and food away from those who needed it more than she did.

Fraser said he noticed the hunger awareness challenge gave him the opportunity to talk about poverty in general and hunger in particular to more people. He said he found more people did not regard the issue of hunger as a taboo subject as they once considered breast or prostate cancer.

Being able to talk about it went a long way in educating the community about donating to the food bank.

The group discussed how important it was to raise awareness not just about the HOL and the Community Food Share Food Bank but about the physical and psychological affects of poor nutrition and the general lack of food on people.