Connecting Through Food

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Shirah Stern

Guest blog by Shirah Stern, Development Associate Corporate Giving

Did you know that there are free toy lending libraries in North York?  Or literacy programs to prepare children for school? I sure didn’t before I went to visit Weston Area Emergency Services (WAES).  WAES is a food bank that falls under the NYH umbrella offering emergency food hampers to people in need.  It was there I met volunteer Marlene Jones.  And she sure taught me a lot about community services I didn’t even know existed!

mjonesMarlene has been volunteering with WAES for almost a year now.  After retiring, Marlene wanted to give back because she personally felt grateful for the education and career that she has had in her life.  Her passion for health and nutrition naturally led her to a volunteer program that helps people in her neighbourhood access the food they need.  “Having access to good food is so important for family health,” she told me. “It’s also important that members of our communities are aware of programs to support people regardless of their personal income or background. Especially if they have kids.”

With four young children, I often wonder why kids don’t come with a manual.  We all want to be the best parent that we can and these free resources are a huge helping hand for many that don’t have a ready support network.

As a retired public health nurse, Marlene informs clients of nearby programs that they didn’t know they had access to.  These range from parenting programs and educational tutoring to newcomer workshops and recreational activities.  And these are available for anyone in the city. Because Marlene shares her knowledge, these families know where they can go to make their lives just a little bit easier.

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Marlene shared the joy she feels being able to assistant clients with their food needs and help them get other supports they need.  Young, single mothers come to the food bank to put food in their bellies, and walk out with information about summer camp their children can attend.  A man struggling with being laid off from work will come in to get extra items for dinner and leave with the number of a service to help him update his resume.  There are so many other examples of people in your neighbourhood that benefit from these programs.

Referral services and connections are part of what makes food banks so important to our community.  I have worked at NYH for many years and I didn’t even know that some of these programs were available (toy lending library??!!).  And working in the social service sector, if I wasn’t aware, I can imagine many other families in our city that could really use these services aren’t aware of them either.  Sharing is caring.

I really admire the generosity and thoughtfulness of Marlene and other volunteers at WAES – they truly demonstrate the value of volunteering and helping others in the community. “It takes a village to raise a child,” share Marlene.  And she enjoys being a part of it.

Families in our city are accessing programs that are helpful because of connections made in the food bank.  It is because of you that we are able to make connections like this happen. Thank you for being part of our village.

Each day many volunteers put their time and heart into making a difference in the community through volunteering.  If you are interested in volunteering with us please contact us – we’d love to have you join the team!

 

 

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Want to know more about free programs offered in the city?  Call Toronto Health Connections at 416-338-7600 or 211 to access community resources for anyone.


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