At The Compass our ethos is: “Help for Today, Hope for Tomorrow.”  The Compass is a community, a community of volunteers and people that require support.  It is often not clear who benefits more from the work we do, our volunteers or our clients.  We are a community with connections, support and advice.  We strive to nurture the body with food and the soul with fellowship, camaraderie and respect for dignity.

The Compass employs a market approach for the distribution of food to those who require a hand in our community.  Our food bank is set up like a small market.  Our shelves our stocked with a variety of goods, all arranged in a pleasing manner, that replicates merchandising techniques used in traditional retail food stores.

We have an intake process for our clients where they meet, in confidence, with appropriately trained intake volunteers.  This is an opportunity to learn about the client’s need, context and other programs or agencies we may be able to connect them to, either within The Compass or external to The Compass. At this time the client is given a voucher for shopping with an allotment of “Compass Dollars” based on factors such as the size of the client’s family.  The “Compass Dollars” are used to shop in the market.  Our clients appreciate being empowered to make their own selections based on their own tastes, desires and needs.  We believe this is consistent with our overarching ethos indicted above.

Clients use a shopping cart in the market, just like a store, and are accompanied by a compass volunteer whose role is ostensibly to help the client track the Compass dollars consumed as there is a limit per shopping trip.  The role is often much more than this.  The volunteer often engages in dialogue and gets to know regular shoppers so that banter often ensues.  This is enriching for all concerned.

The Compass tracks feedback from both volunteers and clients.  We are confident that our approach to food distribution is far more rewarding for both the client and the volunteer as we have deeper human interactions and clients have the dignity to make their own choices.

Through a program we are developing, known as the “Critical Commodity” program we are encouraging supporting bodies, such as our founding church groups, to take on the responsibility of providing an item from our “Critical Commodity” list.  This list contains things that are often not thought of in the context of a food bank but are things that we all need and use in our society to have any semblance of inclusion.  The critical commodity list includes such things as tea, granola bars, shampoo, toilet paper and more.  This program, in conjunction with regular food drives, cash donations and input from the Mississauga Food Bank enables us to provide an array of options that truly allows our clients to make choices for the things we all take for granted.

It is humbling for us to provide this service to our community.