United Way HPE: Donations in Action
Growing up in a nine-kid household with scant funds to spare, Ruth Ingersoll tells funny childhood stories about discovering the joys of drinking milk sourced from a carton vs a box of powder, but notes these experiences help inform her job as Executive Director for the Community Development Council of Quinte (CDC Quinte) every day. We chatted with Ruth to find out more about this organization and how it’s supported by the United Way Hastings and Prince Edward.
Interview by Angela Hawn
Describe CDC Quinte’s work for those who are not familiar.
We focus on food insecurity and ensuring consistent access to safe, nutritious and affordable food for all community members through three programs: the Good Food Box, the Good Baby Box and Community Gardens. CDC Quinte provides fresh fruit and vegetables, diapers and formula, at a greatly reduced cost and helps people become more self-sustaining. Anybody can access our programs—no need to prove your financial status. And our emergency fund helps people who still struggle despite the deep discounts. We’d never let anyone go without.
Where can people find you?
We connect with 20 different communities in Hastings and Prince Edward Counties, from Bancroft to Picton to Deseronto, tackling “food deserts” where someone’s only food source might be the convenience store down the road and selection is both limited and expensive. We partner with other agencies/businesses in these communities, where people can both place and pick up their orders.
How do people find out about you?
Most find us through word of mouth. Young moms getting together with their babies might chat about the Good Baby Box and the next thing you know, they’re also engaging with the Good Food Box program or growing food in a community garden.
How do you source your products?
We buy fruit and vegetables from a Kingston wholesaler, but purchase formula at full retail price. Because of the myriad of expenses involved in delivery, from truck rental to gas and insurance, the United Way subsidy helps keep programs like the Good Baby Box up and running.
Can you describe changes in community need over the years?
Now we see more people with full-time jobs whose income won’t meet their needs. They are the working poor, who come home wondering if there will be an eviction notice on their door, wondering when their hydro will get cut off, wondering how they’ll feed their families.
What stories have stayed with you over the years?
I’ll never forget the intense cry of a young mom’s baby who had gone without formula for at least 24 hours. Mom had been giving her baby water in a baby bottle. That cry was heart-wrenching. Another story involved a couple with two kids, a mortgage, and a car. They were living a good life until the business where they worked shut down. Attempts to access social assistance meant liquidating their assets, including RRSPs the husband started at age 16. A crisis like this should be a brief rough patch you go through while you look for employment. But if you must give up everything you’ve earned to buy formula and diapers, it can lead to chronic poverty, a difficult cycle to end. We offered some support until he found work and they’ve since returned as contributors.
Describe the significance of your organization’s partnership with the United Way.
United Way funding started long before my time here, at least thirty years ago, but their impact goes way beyond the dollars they give. We’ve worked together on various projects like Fresh for All, designed to facilitate the donation of leftover produce from people with local gardens. Sometimes they assist with our strategic planning. And if we’re short volunteers, a reality since Covid, the United Way might reach out on our behalf to a business who participates in their payroll deduction campaign. When we’ve needed people to pack and load boxes onto trucks, these UW donors provided the muscle!