By Samantha Hornby
A couple weeks ago, Blue Link attended the annual Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB) Conference for two days of workshops, networking and round table discussions. This year’s conference was held in downtown Ottawa and was hosted by the Ottawa Food Bank – the second largest food bank in Canada. Blue Link was on-site as a supporting vendor to discuss the Ottawa Food Banks recent ERP software and warehouse barcode-scanning implementation and to educate other Food Banks on implementing similar systems.
“159,918 children use food banks each month.” – OAFB 2012 Hunger Report
Each year the OAFB holds a conference where Food Bank volunteers, employees and board members can meet to share stories, network and learn new ways to efficiently and effectively serve Ontario’s hungry. This year the theme of the event was “Think Fresh” with a focus on new and innovative approaches to traditional Food Bank processes and common problems. Topics of discussion included:
- Accessibility and Special Needs Clients
- Kids Today: Youth Engagement in Your Community
- Fresh Programs
- The Value of Numbers
- What Boards Need to Know
Small and large food banks and food cupboards from all over Ontario made the trip to Ottawa for this year’s conference, which kicked off Sunday with registration and a welcome dinner. The next day was an early start with more delegates arriving just in time for breakfast, opening remarks and a message from Kathleen Wynne. The rest of the day consisted of various workshops, lunch and the annual OAFB General Meeting – after which delegates were treated to a Leadership dinner and surprise guest speaker; Bob Rae.
Tuesday morning began with an early morning trip to visit the Ottawa Mission and Ottawa Food Bank. Gary McCarthy, VP Operations for the Ottawa Food Bank, took delegates on a tour of their warehouse facilities and was later back at the conference to run the workshop on Fresh Programs. Blue Link’s own Darren Myher was on-site that same afternoon for a round table discussion about the value of numbers, with a focus specifically on inventory and accounting food bank software.
“Women and new Canadians are among the highest food bank users.” – OAFB 2012 Hunger Report
After two very successful days, the OAFB Conference came to a close, finishing off with an OAFB board meeting. Delegates spent a lot of time learning about and discussing important issues and new tactics but were also given the opportunity to network, share some laughs and hear from some great guest speakers. As everyone started packing up to head back home, you could tell they were excited to practice what they had learnt and pass along information to the rest of their teams. It was an exciting and informational two days and Blue Link hopes to be invited back again next year!