Beyond the Numbers – Sarah Tremblay Digs Deep as Chair of the Ottawa Food Bank
This is the second in an occasional series highlighting GGFL employees who devote time to volunteering in the community. Sarah Tremblay is a Principal of Assurance and Advisory Services at GGFL and was recently-appointed chair of the Ottawa Food Bank board of directors.
‘It’s given me way more than I’ve
been able to give back.’
Sarah Tremblay joined the board of the Ottawa Food Bank in 2015 at the suggestion of GGFL partner Natalie Evans whose own time on the board was ending.
Sarah’s experience volunteering in the not-for-profit world has been a meaningful experience.
“It’s broadened my perspective of the community and helped me develop empathy towards my neighbours and the challenges others may face,” she says. “It’s given me an added sense of responsibility towards my community.”
That community is Ottawa where she was raised.
“Working with the Ottawa Food Bank made me realize I had been insulated,” adds Sarah. “Food is a basic human right, but I now know that some of my own neighbours could be food insecure and hungry.”
“I know there are parents who have to choose between putting food on the table or keeping the lights on and children who are going to school hungry – or children who are ashamed of their empty lunchboxes.”
The Ottawa Food Bank feeds 39,000 people each month and about 40% of those are families with children. The Ottawa Food Bank buys food, grows food on its own farm and accepts donations of food. It acts as a hub and distributes through a series of agencies and food programs throughout the city.
COVID AND ITS IMPACT
The COVID pandemic has only exacerbated the food insecurity situation in Ottawa.
“The pandemic and its economic impacts have disproportionately affected vulnerable populations in our city,” says Sarah. “It’s caused some people to seek the services of the Ottawa Food Bank and other agencies for the first time. That’s a scary and vulnerable place to be.”
Within the Ottawa Food Bank, the strategic conversation has evolved to become more about the root causes of poverty and food insecurity in addition to the traditional role of providing food to those in need.
“We’ve started to take a more holistic view,” she says. “And there’s a growing awareness that the issue is systemic and complex and closely related to other symptoms of poverty such as homelessness and lack of access to adequate health care. Addressing all those issues will need many stakeholders to come together in a cooperative effort.”
Learning how an organization like the Ottawa Food Bank operates has also given her a deeper understanding of not-for-profits and helps her better relate to GGFL clients in that sector.
GGFL’S COMMUNITY CULTURE
Sarah says the ‘giving back’ culture of GGFL has been a huge reason why she has been able to devote so much of her time volunteering at the Ottawa Food Bank.
“I have some really great role models at GGFL who are actively involved in the community and, in their own ways, giving back. It’s a core value of our firm.”
“Without that support, and the encouragement we all get to be involved in the community, I couldn’t have taken on the chair role because of the time and energy involved,” she says. “It means a lot to me.”