SIRCH’s Gifts from the Heart targets hunger in the Highlands
By Jenn Watt
Published Nov. 14, 2017
Poverty isn’t a term that everyone relates to, says Gena Robertson, executive director of SIRCH Community Services. Some people who struggle financially would never consider themselves “poor,” they’re just making the hard decisions to get by.
“I personally know people who absolutely could go to the food bank, but won’t,” said Robertson. Those people will choose to skip meals in order for their children to eat. Some choose to pay one bill over another, forgoing food for fuel, for example.
Whether people think of themselves as “in poverty” or not, the need is there and financial pressures heading into the winter can put people in precarious positions.
According to information provided by the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit, in this region, more than 13 per cent of households are food insecure, meaning they either do not have enough food to eat or are concerned that their financial constraints will soon affect their food supplies.
To help those in need of nutritious meals, SIRCH is launching its Gifts from the Heart campaign, corresponding with the holiday season.
This year, all money raised will go to food programs run by the charitable organization.
“Gifts from the Heart is really about ethical giving,” said Robertson. Recent polls show that Canadians value gifts that help those in need, she said, quoting an Ipsos Reid poll that “found 74 per cent of Canadians agree a charitable donation in their name makes them feel good.”
One of the ways SIRCH helps those in need is through their Community Kitchen, which provided 5,100 free meals last year in Haliburton County.
“It’s not just people who aren’t making ends meet,” Robertson said. The food also goes to those with disabilities limiting their ability to cook or those who are ill.
Volunteers regularly come together at SIRCH Central on Victoria Street in Haliburton to create nutritious, delicious meals that are then distributed through partner organizations such as the food banks, YWCA and housing groups.
Ingredients are purchased from the grocery stores, but some is also donated from community members and local farmers.
“We try to stay local, but we can’t always,” Robertson said.
SIRCH has a goal of raising $25,000 through Gifts from the Heart. That goes to paying a volunteer co-ordinator, maintaining the kitchen and paying for the food.
Each meal costs SIRCH about $3 to $4 to make.
Robertson said she’d like to expand SIRCH’s services to include more training programs and to open the kitchen up one day a week for people to come together and eat a free meal. However, for this campaign, she’s focusing on funding the core program.
Volunteer Noni Richardson said being part of the process is an enriching experience.
“It’s giving back to the community, but it makes me feel good too,” she said. She’s been a volunteer for seven years and said the group is like a family.
“It was a great way for me to meet people in the community,” she said.
Last week, Richardson and SIRCH food initiatives co-ordinator Diane McKnight were busy cooking up roasted potatoes, chicken breasts and pork chops for the next batch of meals. The food will be distributed around the county, from Haliburton to Wilberforce and Cardiff.
“This job is very gratifying,” said McKnight. “Giving back to the community and seeing what a benefit it is is wonderful.”
Donations to Gifts from the Heart include a tax receipt (for donations of $20 and more) and, if you are choosing to make a donation in someone’s name, special gift cards can be provided. Donations can be made by going to sirch.on.ca, calling 705-457-1742, visiting the office at 49 Maple Ave. in Haliburton or sending a cheque.