Aug. 4, 2021Print | PDF
By now, there is no doubt about the critical role food banks play in our communities. Since the beginning of the pandemic, reliance on their services has risen along with the number of people affected by the economic turmoil that’s come along with COVID-19. In addition to the thousands of individuals and families who were already using the service, new entrants to the food bank system have put additional pressure on these essential organizations right across the country.
The Food Bank of Waterloo Region faces many of the same challenges being experienced throughout Canada. In the past year, there was a staggering 246% increase in calls to the Food Assistance Referral Line, averaging 53 call per week. And between March 2020 and March 2021, 30,960 individuals received emergency food assistance and hunger relief support, and 750,000 meals were served at shelters and through community meal and outreach programs.
In an effort to lend innovative ideas and support to The Food Bank of Waterloo Region, the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics invited them to be the subject of the latest Integrated Case Exercise for hundreds of students this summer term.
“Their insights and questions were so amazing; it really speaks to the unique perspective into how not-for-profits work and the extent to which students, especially those studying business, can apply their skills and knowledge to this critical area.”
Eighty teams were assigned members one day before the case organization was revealed with all eighty teams creating and presenting reports with their recommended solutions. The top four groups were invited to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges that this year included CEO of The Food Bank of Waterloo Region, Wendi Campbell (MBA ’08).
Campbell was quick to note the enthusiasm and passion the students had for The Food Bank’s mission.
“I wish I could hire all the students who presented their ideas,” she commented. “Their insights and questions were so amazing; it really speaks to the unique perspective into how not-for-profits work and the extent to which students, especially those studying business, can apply their skills and knowledge to this critical area.”
Associate professor Karin Schnarr and assistant professor Meredith Woodwark from the Lazaridis School of Business & Economics worked with The Food Bank to come up with a case that would challenge and excite the students. Teams were asked to provide analysis and recommendations around three criteria specific to the work The Food Bank is doing in Waterloo Region:
This group focused on differentiating The Food Bank from its agency network to offer a clearer picture of the work they do. Their proposed solutions focused on developing a comprehensive social media strategy centered around illuminating the challenges of food insecurity. Their main recommendation was to create a marketing and engagement campaign called “Hearts Feeding Hearts” that challenges local individuals, organizations and families to record one-minute videos on how The Food Bank has impacted the community and why they support it.
Group 7 also promoted a social media strategy, specifically to appeal to younger supporters through TikTok. They also recommended tapping into the growing market for take-out food by partnering with Uber Eats to allow patrons to donate to The Food Bank when making a purchase. They then proposed investing in a project coordinator position who could focus on creating and maintaining networks centered around information sharing, marketing and building partnerships.
This group took a community centered approach that seeks to protect and reinforce The Food Bank’s brand presence while engaging stakeholders. They recommended partnering with neighbourhood associations to highlight the role The Food Bank plays in someone’s immediate community and suggested a recognition campaign that builds an emotional connection between residents and their local food bank.
Group 71 took the top spot with their recommendation to create “The Pantry Podcast” as a way to communicate food bank operations and initiatives directly to their audience. The podcast would be used to amplify the voices of their stakeholders and highlight the good the organization is doing in the community. The commercial aspect of the podcast model also allows for the promotion of network partners which would have a direct impact on The Food Bank’s financial goals.
The Lazaridis School celebrates the achievement of all ICE 2021 participants and recognizes Group 71 (Adam Butts, Jovin Cheema, Monica Costache, Daniel DiFederico, Alissa Law, and Xiaoyuan Yang) on their outstanding performance.
If you or anyone in your life is experience food insecurity, reach out to The Food Bank of Waterloo Region at 519-743-5576 ext. 340 for assistance.