Author Archives: Maria Soares

  1. I Choose Hope

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    Help Get Healthy Food to Neighbours like Sandra!

    Did you know that after paying rent and utilities, our clients have about $6.67 left per day for food and all other necessities?

    Click here to read Sandra’s Story of resilience and hope.

    Summer should be a time of enjoying the beautiful weather and taking breaks from work and school to relax and recharge. For some, it’s full of possibilities — from summer camps and vacations, to picnics and BBQs.

    Yet, for thousands of families and individuals in our city, there is no break from the daily stress and worry of food insecurity.

    The situation is dire as the need for food support continues to surge far above pre-pandemic levels.

    At North York Harvest, we’ve seen a 92% increase in client visits since 2019, with a 25% spike last year alone.

    Toronto is facing a poverty crisis with increased inflation, low social-assistance rates and unaffordable housing.

    Every day, people like Sandra are having to turn to a food bank because they can’t make ends meet.

     

    Sandra’s Story

    Sandra is passionate about her work with children with special needs but with rising costs, her income and benefits are not sufficient to ensure food security in our city.

    I started coming here a year ago and I am able to meet my needs with the help of North York Harvest. The staff are very kind and friendly, and give their time to meet their community.

    After a long day of work, it makes your day to see a friendly face here at North York Harvest, so I always welcome it.It's so hard to make ends meet and I'm trying hard to make it work. Says Sandra

    With the pandemic and high cost of living, you would not believe how many of my clients I’ve lost. It’s so hard to make ends meet and I’m trying hard to make it work. Sometimes when you struggle, you keep it quiet inside – but things can get better with help.

    If you look, you can see this community faces problems everywhere. On the streets, on the TTC, and it really scared me. But then I thought: do I choose to live in fear? This is my life. Do I choose to accept what life is or be hopeful changes can happen?

    picture of smiling woman with quote "I choose hope" next to herThe pandemic made it hard for a lot of people. I was not working and it was getting to my head. But I said, am I going to allow this to destroy me? No, I’m bigger than that.

    I choose hope.

    Sandra, North York Harvest Client

    Sandra’s story embodies the resilience and determination that drive our work. But we can’t do it alone. 

    Will you be there for people like Sandra?

    The pandemic forced so many in our city into deep food insecurity, including Sandra.

    The urgency of our work has never been more pronounced, and your support has never been more critical

    Your gift today will help provide emergency food access for so many while empowering us to continue fighting the root causes of poverty.

    Our partnership provides vital resources to our community members like Sandra, and enables them to focus on their lives beyond merely surviving.

    But without legislation to address affordable housing, social assistance rates and stagnating wages, the need for our services continues to surge.

    After paying rent and utilities, our clients have about $6.67 left per day for food and all other necessities, according to our 2023 Who’s Hungry report.

    When we join together, we can go beyond short-term support, and continue advocating for much-needed policy changes that will create a more just society, where no one has to rely on a food bank.

    These are the real systemic changes we can achieve with and for our community.

    Please give generously today, so we can continue providing essential food support to our neighbours, while helping to build an equitable community where everyone can thrive.

    Every gift, no matter the amount, makes a difference.  Thank you!


     

    Collage of North York Harvest staff posing at various food spaces, as as "Together we can build a community where everyone can thrive. Donate Today" is placed beside next to them

     

    *This is a true story from a client. The images have been changed to protect their privacy.

  2. Who’s Hungry Report 2023

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    Who’s Hungry Report 2023

    In partnership, Daily Bread Food Bank and North York Harvest Food Bank have released the 2023 Who’s Hungry Report, a profile of food insecurity in the City of Toronto.

    The report reveals a grim reality: 1 in 10 people in Toronto are now relying on food banks to make ends meet. Last year that number was 1 in 20.

     

    ACCESS THE REPORT GET THE SNAPSHOT 

     

    During the reporting period, there were 2.53 million visits to food banks in Toronto – a 51% increase over last year and the highest annual increase ever recorded.

     


    Food insecurity is at crisis levels in Toronto. More households are being pushed into poverty due to four key factors.

    Soaring housing costs

    • After paying rent and utilities, food bank clients have a median of $6.67 left per person, per day for food and all other necessities. This is a significant drop from $8.01 last year

    Food inflation

    • Nearly 1 in 3 (31%) food bank clients went a whole day without eating and more than half (55%) of food bank clients missed a meal to pay for something else

       

     

    Stagnating wages

    • Despite inflation rising by 11% since 2021, the median hourly wage ($16) and median weekly hours worked among food bank clients have remained the same during this period

    Insufficient social assistance rates

    • Of the 35% of food bank clients who have a disability, 61% rely on social assistance for income, which leaves them at least $1,000 below the poverty line each month

     


    There was a 154% increase in the number of individuals who accessed food bank services for the first time last year. Food banks are at their breaking point.

    “The report’s findings, while heartbreaking, are not a surprise. Food banks are being counted on to address the immediate needs and our sector simply cannot solve this crisis on its own,” says Ryan Noble, Executive Director, North York Harvest Food Bank.

    “To truly eradicate hunger, it takes more than food banks raising food and funds. There is an urgent need for collaboration and real action among the government, the private sector and food banks.”

     


    To affect real change urgently needed in the sector, we are calling for the following:

    • The Government of Canada to rapidly design and implement an adequate and accessible Canada Disability Benefit so that eligible recipients begin receiving the benefit by 2025.
    • The Government of Ontario to commit to a minimum of 300,000 units of permanently affordable and supportive homes in Ontario over the next 10 years, with a minimum of 50,000 in Toronto.
    • The City of Toronto to ensure Toronto’s forthcoming Poverty Reduction Strategy Action Plan provides concrete actions, with funding attached, to prevent food insecurity and promote resiliency among Toronto’s community food programs.

     


    North York Harvest Food Bank’s vision is a community where all members are able to meet their food needs, and we will continue to strive for that through dignified food assistance, education, advocacy, and long-term food solutions.

    To read the full report and detailed recommendations, click here.

    Who's Hungry Report 2023

  3. NYH Virtual AGM

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    North York Harvest Food Bank’s virtual Annual General Meeting was held on Tuesday, February 23.

    The first part of the meeting covered North York Harvest’s business including a review of last fiscal year’s financials and discussions on organizational priorities.

    Board Chair, Habon Ali, thanked Jordan Hill and Tony Cancelliere for their invaluable contributions as they retired from the board. She also welcomed Sharmini Fernando, current ED of Syme Woolner Neighbourhood and Family Centre, to the board.

    The remainder of the meeting was an interactive portion where member agencies, board of directors and staff contributed  their insight from their pandemic response and their outlook for the coming year.

     

    For more information, checkout the 2019-2020 Annual Report:

     

  4. Interested in becoming a Board Member?

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    North York Harvest is looking for candidates to join our dynamic Board of Directors.  

    If you have passion for our vision of a community where all members are able to meet their food needs, this may be the volunteer position for you.    

    Do you have:

    • Experience working in or with government
    • Understanding of poverty reduction and food security
    • Experience or connection to food distribution
    • Strategic planning

    We are seeking candidates for board terms effective February 2020; please note that orientation, including introduction to the Board, will begin as early as December 2019.

    If you are interested in this opportunity, please review the NYH Board Posting.

     

     

  5. “I wanted to make sure others have the same chance I did.” – How Theresa Pays it Forward

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    Asking for help is hard.

    When Theresa visited our Lawrence Heights Community Food Space for the first time, her hands were shaking. “I was so embarrassed to have to ask for food,” she remembers. The single mother was desperately in need of help to put food on her table, but we often hear, Theresa felt ashamed of her situation.

    Theresa’s situation, however, is not unlike the ones many others face in Toronto. “I was new to the city. I came here because I thought I’d be able to find work. But it was harder than I expected.” Because of the generosity of our community, Theresa was greeted warmly by Julie, our Food Bank Manager.

    She walked away with the food she needed and a new sense of belonging. Just like 1 in 3 of our clients, Theresa wanted to “pay it forward”. Even though she was in a time of personal crisis, she was determined to give back so others could receive the same help she had.  She became a volunteer to create a safe, friendly space for her neighbours who were also struggling.

    “I told Julie to call me whenever she needed help – day or night. I wanted to make sure others have the same chance I did. I know this community needs help, so I’m helping in the way I can,” Theresa insists with a shy smile.

    Stories like Theresa’s happen at North York Harvest agencies every day. Emergency food assistance makes life a little better and restores a sense of purpose and hope. People come in for help and find a community.

    Your support makes sure that providing emergency food support is just the beginning of our relationship with people like Theresa. And just like you, Theresa is committed to building a healthier Northern Toronto.   

    Will you join Theresa and give what you can to make sure our community members in need can find healthy food across Northern Toronto?

    Click here to make a financial donation.