Peanut butter and jelly. Peas and carrots. Shawarma and poutine. Some things go together so well that you can't imagine how they weren't always that way. It's something I thought about when I received an email about the Food Bank of Waterloo Region's Spring Food & Fund Drive partnership with Kitchener-based reebee this week.
The Spring Food & Fund Drive supports the agency’s mission to acquire, co-ordinate and distribute food to the Community Food Assistance Network. It's a network of more than 100 community programs and agency partners working together to ensure no one goes hungry in our community.
Food insecurity continues to be a growing issue in Waterloo Region – especially due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. According to the food bank, one in 20 households struggled to access affordable food in 2019. That number has only increased over the last two years.
Like every charitable organization, the food bank was looking for new ways to connect with the community. The added challenge of connecting without in-person contact led it to the team at reebee. "We were looking at how we could target the community a little differently, how could we explain the importance and reach different people that we haven't potentially in the past," said Kim Wilhelm, the food bank’s Director of Development.
Wilhelm and her colleagues knew about reebee from a previous campaign with Food Banks Canada. "We said, you know, what, reebee is a local company. What are the opportunities for us to get the word out about our Spring Food and Fun Drive with them?"
Founded in 2012 by University of Waterloo graduates Tobiasz Dankiewicz and Michal Martyniak, reebee's mission is to help Canadians make the best possible purchasing decisions when shopping. Their app includes flyers for everything from Canadian Tire and Home Hardware to grocery stores, including Sobeys, Real Canadian Superstore and Central Fresh Market.
For the team at reebee, the opportunity to help the food bank connect with new audiences just made sense. "COVID-19 has had a major impact in our community and we understand that the most vulnerable are facing additional challenges when it comes to accessing healthy food," said
Claire Martin, Public Relations and Marketing Associate at reebee. "The food bank is doing incredible work within our communities to get food to those in need and it was important to us to help amplify that message and drive donations."
Users across Canada use reebee to find the lowest prices on groceries and other essentials. The partnership with the food bank includes curated content to help educate their users about food insecurity in the community. The app also presents options for donating – whether that's a monetary donation or needed food items. "We want to encourage users and our community members to use reebee to help their own families save on food – and if it's in their means – to then add extra items to their basket to support the food bank," added Martin.
The option to donate food or money is essential for the food bank. "When people say to me, Kim, what does the food bank need? Do they need funds or do they need food? The answer is both," said Wilhelm. Monetary donations give the agency the flexibility to fill inventory gaps. The funding also allows them to buy in bulk to get better pricing.
This isn't the first time reebee and the food bank have worked together. "As a team, we've volunteered in their food center, packaging up dry goods," said Martin. "Unfortunately, we can't do the in-person volunteering at the moment, but we're looking forward to being able to do that again."
The food bank has been using reebee for content on their social media channels to highlight some of the most needed items that happen to be on sale for a campaign they call Flyer Thursday. "Whether it's about saving money within your own family, or finding out how to purchase something that the food bank needs at a lesser deal, we just go through and highlight here's the most needed items that you can purchase when you're doing your grocery shopping."
For companies looking to get involved with the food bank, Wilhelm suggested hosting a Virtual Food and Fun Drive. "It's the easiest, safest way for people to participate right now," added Wilhelm. The food bank can create custom fundraising pages for companies or groups to have your team fundraise together while staying apart to keep everyone safe.
The virtual fundraisers can be for more than just a team-building event. Wilhelm said they've had people learn about the virtual drives through their employers and have come back to do them for birthdays. "People have shared the virtual fund drive with their family and friends and said in lieu of birthday presents this year, make a donation to the food bank."
Martin said the relationship with the food bank is special to the team at reebee. "I think there's been a lot of mutual support, them supporting us and our team giving back to the community for such a long time. It is a really special relationship."