Food for Life and Parkview Church: Serving Through Partnership

You’ll find Parkview Church — a social, recreational, and spiritual hub that, among many things, offers a Food for Life neighbourhood food program — located on Hamilton’s west mountain. However, don’t let its physical space fool you. Parkview’s impact is felt far beyond the church’s walls.

Operating Compassion Ministries, Parkview offers support to Hamiltonians who need it, including individuals who are low income and unemployed, women leaving women’s shelters, and newcomers. Many of them are food insecure. While some friends and neighbours access Parkview’s food program 24 hours a day at the West 5th Street location, others find support through an intricate network of programs and volunteers that provide food across the city and beyond.

When we talked to Pastor Jon Huxtable, a Food for Life shipment had just arrived at Parkview, and six skids of food were already being put to use. Food for Life began delivering food to Parkview three years ago when, at the time, the church was only doing a Wednesday-night food program.

“We’re feeding over 1000 people a week through food you’re giving us,” he says. “We are all part of a circle. Part of a chain.”

“You’d say, ‘take this! Take this!’,” recalls Huxtable. “You were so generous to us!” The partnership has allowed Huxtable and his team of volunteers to greatly expand their outreach. “We’re feeding over 1000 people a week through food you’re giving us,” he says. “We are all part of a circle. Part of a chain.”

On Wednesday nights, Huxtable and a team of volunteers serve meals, made with donations from Food for Life, at Ferguson Station, just east of Hamilton’s downtown core. “We load up pickup trucks and head down there!” he says. Later the same week, they provide nutrition to 300-plus in Hamilton’s more-residential Barton Street neighbourhood. On Saturdays, volunteers serve hot meals in downtown’s Gore Park.

“People are shopping for their lives,” says Huxtable, who started Compassion Ministries in 2002 when a number of families reached out in need of winter coats and boots for their children. “They come to us for food. They’re dependent on us.”

When talking to Huxtable about the impact of Parkview’s food programs, he’s full of countless stories, including how Food for Life donations have helped those living in encampments and lodging homes. He has volunteers who know the city, and its needs, well, bringing food to people living in alleyways, parks, or under bridges. “They can’t prepare food; they’re just surviving,” he says.

Asked about Parkview’s partnership with Food for Life, Huxtable doesn’t hesitate before he responds. “You’re literally saving lives.”

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Huxtable says he has seen an increase in wage earners who have lost their jobs, many of whom are providers in intergenerational homes. Whenever possible, Parkview gets food into individual residences with the help of dedicated volunteers. One volunteer, says Huxtable, cooks and delivers food to 50 families in her own cultural community, with a goal of serving up to 100 families within a month.

An intricate network of agencies and volunteers extend Parkview’s food programs far beyond the mountain and downtown core to outskirt communities including Hagersville and Brantford.

“We have agencies that come to us. Those agencies give to individuals,” says Huxtable, mentioning Hamilton Hunger Helpers, an organization that gets food to vulnerable populations, including those in shelters, crisis centers, and homeless facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We fill up their vehicle with things you give us each week,” he says. “They find where the need is.”

Recently, after Parkview received an influx of baby food donated to Food for Life, Hamilton Hunger Helpers connected with a network of families with young children. “Your baby food goes through all of that and gets to the babies’ mouths,” says Huxtable.

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