Building Strong Community Partnerships

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Operating a food bank has many unique challenges, many of which has been further amplified because of the COVID-19
pandemic. “Once COVID hit, North York Harvest was put into a position to change how business was done,” says
Dianna Stapleton, volunteer and board chair at Weston Area Emergency Support (WAES). Stapleton has worked in the food
security industry for more than 30 years, with much of her time spent volunteering with WAES which means she understands
the unique needs of small food banks. At the beginning of the pandemic, WAES would not have been able to keep its doors
open and support families, and individuals in need had it not been for North York Harvest. “We spent a lot of time with the
team at North York Harvest trying to figure out how to get food so that we could assist the community,” she says. It was
through this support that enabled WAES to access alternative avenues for food and donations that would not have been
possible for a small organization.“Sometimes we get into a routine and may not think there’s a better or different way to do things,” she explains. “Having the other members in North York Harvest’s Agency Network to tap into their expertise, is one of the biggest benefits.” Without the traditional networking opportunities that many other types
of businesses have, Stapleton and her colleagues at WAES value the regular meetings with other professionals in the food
security space for the chance to also share experience and celebrate shared success. As we all work towards basic income
that allows for affordable housing and accessible food many would agree with Stapleton, “Food banks are an emergency
room in a hospital, you don’t want to use it but you are glad when it is there.” At our core, it’s important for community
member to not feel a stigma around needing their support.

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