Hamilton Changemakers

13 07 2013


What if all children in Hamilton were thriving? What would that make possible? What conditions need to be in place for that to happen?


These were the central questions that brought together a room full of Hamiltonians this past week to think about creating the future we all want for our community. The afternoon gathering was hosted by the Community Child Abuse Council, Alternatives for Youth, and Hamilton Food Share. These three agencies have applied some of the thinking and approaches developed by Creating the Future, a “living laboratory” devoted to social progress co-founded by Hildy Gottlieb and Dimitri Petropolis. As local early adopters of this work, these agencies have been inspired to pursue vision-driven change in what many would see as very different areas of endeavour – child abuse, addiction, hunger. In fact, all share similar visions of a thriving community.

Seeing an opportunity to join together in this shared pursuit, these 3 organizations invited their key partners and supporters to gather for a conversation about what would be possible if we all aimed for the same goal: a thriving community. The resulting “Gathering of Changemakers” event brought together 40+ community leaders, thinkers, and visionaries from across a wide swath of the Hamilton community, including health, social services, policing, business, service clubs, funders, and others. Special guests, Hildy Gottlieb and Dimitri Petropolis of Creating the Future, engaged the gathering in a series of discussions focused on highest potential and the steps needed to realize our shared vision of a thriving Hamilton.



And what a conversation it was! We learned that while we may sometimes disagree on the “how”, we share the same aspirations and values – we want everyone in our community to thrive, knowing that our community overall will thrive as a result. And, despite some early doubts about whether this goal is actually achievable, we learned that we already know what is required to make our desired future happen. Just as we’re able to get to the airport on time when we leave on a trip, we are able to identify the steps we need to take in order to get to our shared goal. We work backwards to figure out what we need to do (e.g. what time to set our alarm so we don’t miss our flight). The starting point is our vision, and from there we simply need to identify the favourable conditions that will get us there. It’s something we do every day, in virtually every part of our lives, but we aren’t doing it in our efforts to achieve the future we want for our community.

It’s going to take practice. We’re going to have to ask different questions, and challenge some of the assumptions we’ve inherited about people, systems, and the impact each of us is having on the future of our world each and every day (whether we do so consciously or not). And we’re going to need more Hamiltonians to join us in this ongoing conversation. We’ll be working on these things, and talking to each other about next steps. And we know this isn’t going to result in overnight change. But imagining what would be possible if all children in our community were thriving has us excited enough to keep moving forward in this direction – finding our commonalities, working from our shared values, and aiming at the highest possible potential for the community we all care about so deeply.

Stay tuned!



Feed The Dream

15 04 2011

Did you know that in Hamilton more than 23,000 students get a breakfast, lunch and/or snack each day at their local school or community centre? Many of these kids, 1 in 4, live in poverty. Others lack the required nutrition to get them through the day because busy lives, work schedules, or stressful home situations get in the way. Hamilton Partners in Nutrition (HPIN) provides nutritional meals and snacks to students across this community, funded largely through provincial money but relying also on donations and fundraising. Rising food costs require ongoing efforts to raise money and a significant dependence on volunteer dedication.

On Saturday, June 18th you can support their work by supporting their Feed The Dream Auction. It will be held at Hamilton’s Discovery Centre and will include both silent and live auction events as well as entertainment and hors d’oevres. Opportunities to help include buying event tickets, donating auction items, volunteering for the evening, or advertising in the auction brochure. EnMark Associates is pleased to be donating an auction item, and challenges readers of this site to do the same.

Full details can be found at www.partnersinnutrition.ca or by calling 905-522-1148, ext. 301.  Be sure to find out about the special pre-auction cruise aboard The Harbour Queen.

There are more than 100 student nutrition programs in Hamilton, and as of June 2010 they serve 447,183 breakfast meals and 650,690 snacks with the help of 6,695 volunteers. Parents alone contribute more than 45,000 hours of volunteer time, estimated to represent more than $750,000.


Karen’s recent work has included a project with the Hamilton Community Foundation and area stakeholders to develop a universal school-based nutrition program in Hamilton. Buildiing from what is already in place, the initiative aims to make nourishment available to all elementary school students (secondary school population would come next) and to help the community move forward towards the goal of being the best place in which to raise a child. Watch this blog and the Hamilton Community Foundation’s web site (see link at right) for updates on the project.

Food, Glorious Food

26 01 2011

All things organic, local and sustainable are on the agenda for the upcoming Hamilton food policy conference (a first). “Hammering Out a Food Policy for Hamilton: Preparing the Ground” is set for Thursday, February 10th at the Royal Botanical Gardens and will feature speakers (including Gord Hume, author of Local Food Revolution), presentations, workshops and networking. Registration deadline is February 4th. Cost for the full day event is $30 including refreshments and lunch (local and healthy, of course!).

The event is hosted by the Community Food Security Stakeholders Committee, Hamilton Eat Local, and Slow Food Hamilton. These groups may not be particularly well known but are part of an increasing movement to connect local residents with the foods they eat. They will mark February as Farm Month, for example, with various events (for details go to www.environmenthamilton.org) including a gathering at the newly-renovated Hamilton Farmers’ Market and a food film festival on Locke St.

Growing your own vegetables this year? Interested in ways to eat local all year round? Or just wondering what sustainable agricultural policy looks like? These events are for you. A nice opportunity to escape winter and think about seeds, soil and Savoy cabbage instead of snow and shovels for a bit. And, if you’re a parent, these promise many teachable moments…how far, for example, did the items on your dinner menu tonight have to travel before making it to your table? Do your teens know where they can get a locavore pizza? Did you know you can volunteer for a local fruit tree project to pick (and share) fruit that would otherwise go to waste? Fun to find out, and important information for community members who agree that  local food is better food.

Hunger Heroes

14 12 2010

Hats off to some of Hamilton’s generous responders to the need for food and support among those experiencing hunger in this community:

The Copetown Lions Club has “adopted” King George School on Gage Avenue North in Hamilton, supporting a nutritious snack program through donations  of $3,700 in the past year. Along with donations from other area Lions Clubs, some $12,000 has been raised by this generous service group. The Club will also host about 250 students from King George for a free turkey lunch at the Lions Community Hall in Copetown.

No Frills and Fortinos grocery stores (part of the Loblaw chain) are hosting the 2010 Extra Helping Holiday National Food Drive in stores now – the aim is to raise $1.35 million and 1.2 million lbs of food to combat hunger across Canada. Here in Hamilton, monies and food raised will go to Hamilton Food Share. Donate money at checkout, or pick up needed food items to deposit in designated collection containers. Items of particular need include canned meat and fish, pasta, rice, dry and canned soups and stews, canned fruit and vegetables, flour, cereals, peanut butter, canned or powdered milk, beans and legumes, butter, infant formula and baby food.

More than 18,000 people rely on food banks in this community, and by extension rely upon our generosity. This is the time of year when the level of that generosity peaks, but please remember the food bank each and every time you shop for groceries throughout the year. Pick up an extra item or two, especially from among the needed items list above, and drop it in the collection container when you check out. Hamilton’s hungry thank you for doing so.

Losani Homes’ Record-Breaking Turkey Drive

11 12 2010

As a follow-up to my recent post congratulating Losani Homes on being honoured for their philanthropy, here’s an astounding accomplishment that has gone quietly unnoticed by most Hamiltonians…

The Losani family hosted about 500 guests last week for their annual Turkey Drive. The event raises money for local charities. This year, the modest goal was $50,000. But that amount was

Lino and Fred Losani at cheque presentation

nearly reached before the event even took place, thanks to early calls and requests made to Losani Homes trades associates. By the time the event finished, a whopping $210,000 had been raised! This is quite likely a record for a single fundraising event of this kind in Hamilton.

Fred Losani, speaking to guests, acknowledged the generosity of their associates and recognized the success that can happen when we all work together. He pointed to recent events like Al Pacino’s visit to the city, which raised a reported $150,000 for charitable causes, saying that by

Food Share's Joanne Santucci accepts donation

comparison very little effort was required for Losani Homes to achieve this incredible outcome. The bighearted company provided food and drink for guests at the Turkey Drive and organized the “virtual sale” of turkeys to those in attendance. Of the money pledged, $110,000 has been shared between the Community Child Abuse Council, Hamilton Food Share and Good Shepherd. The remaining funds, once collected, will be distributed among other worthy causes.

Any other companies out there feeling generous enough to try something similar with their own network of associates? There is no shortage of need in this community, and this approach to philanthropy is just the sort of gesture that can make a huge difference without requiring

Community Child Abuse Council Board Chair, Greg Doerr

charities to knock on doors or invest huge amounts of time and energy for limited returns. The Losanis have set the bar and shown that the results can be tremendous – their quiet leadership is admirable and sets an example for us all. We are grateful for their commitment to this community, and thankful for the generosity of their associates – Barzotti Woodworking, Pearson Dunn, Turkstra Lumber and the many others who gave to this event (a full list was published in the Hamilton Spectator on December 9, 2010).

Giving that truly counts

6 12 2010

There has been a lot in the news recently about the trend for giving so-called philanthropic gifts (a goat, school books, water purification tablets, mosquito nets) through various international aid organizations. These are tremendous opportunities to add an additional layer of meaning to the gift-giving act and to make a difference in the lives of ordinary people who need help.

Interested in doing something like this right here in your own community? There are no shortage of opportunities! Be creative, think of the many needs out there, and do something difference-making this year. Here are some ideas to get you thinking in the right direction:

  • sponsor a family through the Children’s Aid Society
  • drop off warm coats to the Salvation Army
  • remember the food bank when you do your grocery shopping
  • purchase a magazine subscription for a local women’s shelter
  • introduce yourself as a volunteer by presenting a ‘VOU’ certificate to a worthy organization (provide your contact information and let them know how much time you are willing to give them for a future occasion when they may need it)
  • take up a collection at your holiday gathering and donate it to a local charity
  • invest in the future of Hamilton with a gift to the Hamilton Community Foundation
  • share some of your homebaked goodies with the volunteer dog walkers at the SPCA
  • offer your expertise to a local agency who might otherwise have to pay for a service: tune a piano for a senior’s centre or take care of the snow in an agency parking lot
  • ask your neighbours what they are supporting this year – find out about a need and respond if you can

If you have a favourite charity, call and ask them what they might be needing this holiday season. Many have a wish list of needed items. Check web sites for wish lists and other ideas. Find your own unique gesture that will make a difference, no matter how small. The gifts that keep giving are some of the very best. I find that it feels like the gift was one received rather than given. If you can’t give money, give in another way. It’s the giving that counts.

World Food Day

16 10 2010

October 16 is World Food Day. This year, the theme of the day is “united against hunger”.

We are fortunate in Canada to be among the world’s healthiest populations and producers of significant amounts of food. From grains to fish, our ability to draw from the land and waters is abundant. Still, we have our own problems with hunger. Many find this surprising, but we nonetheless have a sizeable number of people in this country who do not get adequate food on a regular basis. Food banks, hot meal programs, community gardens, and various public health and community initiatives are aimed at this food insecurity problem. Here in Hamilton, local farmers and concerned donors have joined in the battle against hunger. Hamilton Food Share was out in those fields today, receiving freshly-harvested carrots destined for food banks in the coming days. Increasing the amount of fresh food available to food bank users is just one of the challenges facing local service providers.

In coming weeks Karen will be working with the Hamilton Community Foundation to support a community initiative aimed at bringing enhanced nutrition and food intake to local schools. Hunger hits children particularly hard, negatively affecting their development and learning. More than 8,000 children use local food banks despite breakfast programs and school nutrition initiatives. Watch for future updates about the local food insecurity landscape and the Hamilton Community Foundation initiative.

Of interest, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization has a world hunger map indicating levels of food insecurity and hunger around the globe. With the exception of Australia and New Zealand, the current map shows the entire southern hemisphere as being hungry to varying degrees. North of the equator, parts of Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean, China, the Middle East and Southeast Asia are indicated on the map as experiencing some level of hunger but nowhere in North America, Europe, Scandinavia, Japan, or the rest of Asia.

For more information, visit www.fao.org.

To support local food banks, go to: www.hamiltonfoodshare.org. Every $1 in donations raises $5 in food. To support the Hamilton Community Foundation, go to: www.hcf.on.ca.

You can add your name to the worldwide anti-hunger petition by going to: www.1billionhungry.org.

Inside the food bank

9 10 2010

This National Film Board short takes us inside the food bank in Timmins, Ontario, which opened in 2006 in response to the economic downturn and has seen registration go from 12 families to more than 1200 families. The film is part of the GDP series produced by the NFB as a year-long, interactive web project showing the human side of the economic crisis in photos and film. 5 min, 10 sec, 2009.


Hungry in Hamilton

6 09 2010

The start of school for another year will be bittersweet for some families. The excitement of returning to the classroom can be exhilarating for kids…seeing friends again, new learning adventures. But, for those who don’t always have enough to eat it’s a compromised milestone. In Hamilton, where community leaders are working to make this “the best place to raise a child”, attention is being paid to children’s nutritional requirements and the impact of hunger in the classroom. This is a community challenge, not simply one for parents or educators.

According to Hamilton Food Share, nearly 20,000 people turn to local food banks each month. That’s nearly four times the number using food banks in 2001. Children under age 18 make up 42% of these food bank users but account for only 26% of our population. The disproportionate reliance on food banks by children is just part of this signficant community problem.

Comment heard the other day: “Parents are the ones responsible for feeding their kids. Just how much of that free food goes to those who really don’t need it? There’s so much abuse in the system. I don’t support it.”

Sorry to say this is not a rare opinion despite being misinformed. Yes, parents are responsible for feeding their children and many make extreme sacrifices trying to do just that. As for the notion of abuse in the system, I have come to think this is simply a ready excuse for not knowing any better. Lining up at a food bank, going through the screening process, and leaving with what little happens to be available (whether it’s food you like or not) isn’t something done on a whim. And there’s nothing “free” about the food distributed by local food banks. The costs can be measured in homes, neighbourhoods, communities and society overall – not to mention in humility, dignity, spirit and independence. I count my blessings each time I donate to the food banks. The last economic crunch tipped the balance for many who now need help at the end of the month. Some lost jobs, some have more than one but still can’t make ends meet. 

Thirty Percent (30%) of food bank recipients report frequent problems eating balanced meals and providing balanced meals for their children.  Hamilton Food Share’s HungerCount 2009 reported more than 8,300 children access food banks every month. According to Dietitians of Canada, “mothers sacrifice their own food to protect their children from hunger.” Despite access to a food bank, many parents struggle. One in five children do not eat a balanced meal most days of the week and almost 20% of children using a food bank do not eat breakfast every day. There is no lack of evidence about children and hunger. Kids need to be ready to learn. We know that hungry children in food insecure households frequently experience a lack of focus in school and in the long term can experience learning impairments.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation indicates affordable housing should account for no more than 30% of total household income. For single parents on Ontario Works (OW) rent will account for 49%-77% of  total household income; for single people on OW, 67%-100% of their income goes to rent. Doesn’t leave much for anything else, including food.

What can we do to change this? If you agree that social assistance rates are insufficient you can contact your elected representatives and add your voice to those who advocate for change. Do what you can to support those in need in this community – donate, volunteer, share food, support school-based nutrition initiatives, and educate others about this community issue. Below are some good starting points.

Hamilton Food Share web site: www.hamiltonfoodshare.org.

Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction: www.hamiltonpoverty.ca.

Hamilton Community Foundation: www.hcf.on.ca.

Check out the 6th Annual Empty Bowls event hosted by the Potters’ Guild of Hamilton & Region during their Fall Sale 2010, November 5-7. www.hamiltonpotters.ca.  This event raises funds for Hamilton Food Share (more than $20,000 last year) – $20 lets you take home one of the many handmade soup bowls on sale and helps support this great initiative. I have several in my collection and use them all the time – they are meant to remind us that there are always empty bowls out there unless we do something to change that.

2  The Fall Sale 2009 raised $20,420 for Hamilton Food Share Empty Bowls