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  1. Home Upgrades At No Cost to You

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    It won’t be long before we’re all thinking of ways to stay warm indoors but for many people heating costs are an added expense that can be challenging to fit into your budget. North York Harvest is proud to work with Enbridge Gas once again, to help North York  community members reduce their heating costs.

    Now in the second year of working with Enbridge Gas, the company’s Home Winterproofing Program is assisting more families and individuals at a time when they need it most. At North York  Harvest, we are strengthening our community by
    continuing to work together with partners such
    as Enbridge Gas. If the cost of heating your home is stretching your budget, the Enbridge Gas Home Winterproofing Program can help. Whether  you’re a homeowner or renter, if you qualify, you’ll receive free energy-saving upgrades to lower your natural gas bill and make your home more comfortable.

    What can I receive?

    The free upgrades include draft proofing to seal air leaks, new insulation to increase comfort and
    a smart thermostat to allow you to save energy
    easily, even when you’re away from home. All upgrades will be installed by a professional, at no cost to you.

    How do I qualify?

    The program is open to Enbridge Gas customers who meet the income guidelines or if you already
    participate in a government assistance program
    such as Ontario Works. Your home also needs to
    be heated with natural gas and the account must
    be in your name.

    If I rent my home, can I qualify?

    Yes, if you meet the income guidelines. You’ll  also need written permission from your landlord
    before the upgrades can be installed.

    Is this program really free?

    Yes! If your household income qualifies, there’s absolutely no cost to you. By helping homes reduce energy use Enbridge Gas is doing its part  in the fight against climate change. “It feels like my house has a warm blanket around it,” Dwana,
    program participant.

    How does it work?
    If your household qualifies, you’ll first get a free
    home energy assessment scheduled at your convenience from a trusted program delivery agent. Qualified contractors will then complete the installation of all upgrades, plus cleanup. A follow-up visit will also be scheduled to confirm that your home upgrades have been completed and that you’re satisfied.

    Please note that Enbridge Gas is actively  monitoring the latest COVID-19 updates  from public health and government officials. All program delivery agents follow the recommended guidelines during in-home visits,  including physical distancing, personal protective equipment and sanitization precautions. Find out more and apply to the program sign up online.

  2. Local Artists Showcase Their Support

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    From connecting ideas to creating awareness to enhancing a public space, there’s no question that art matters. Over the past year, it has been challenging for many of us to finds of staying connected with one another. For local artists, giving back to the North York Harvest community has not only supported individuals and families, it has helped create a positive connection for artists, adding more meaning to their work.

    In June the North Toronto Group of Artists held their second annual fundraiser in support of North York Harvest. This event features the work of more than 40 local artists showcasing their work through an outdoor art exhibit and walking art tour. For many community members, the exhibit provided an opportunity to engage with artists and purchase artwork while also supporting the work of North York Harvest. Bringing together the community, showing support on a local level, impact this group of artists continues to have on the North York Harvest community is an inspiring example of what can be done with a little creativity and community spirit.

    Wild Bunch, Sheila Merer IG: @sheilamererart

     
    You Take My Breath Away, Madeleine Greenwald IG: @maddygreenwaldart
     
    Date Night at the Buffet, Melissa Morrow IG: @memocreative
     
    The North Toronto Group of Artists is run by volunteer artists. Representing the work of over 50 local artists who produce visual fine arts in various form. Learn more about the organization or specific artists at ntga.ca. 
  3. Back to School Brings New Opportunities

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    As we approach the new school year, families that are already experiencing food insecurity are facing additional challenges as they prepare their school-aged children for September.

    Like many in our community whose employment was disrupted due to the pandemic, Christina lost her full-time position last summer. When she found out one of North York Harvest’s food spaces operates from her neighbourhood community centre, she became a client.

    “Those were trying times after losing my job and having a school-aged child idling at home throughout the summer,” shares Christina.

    Over the last decade, children have made up just over 20% of Canada’s general population yet they represent more than 30% of our food bank clients.

    Christina was appreciative of the additional food she got from North York Harvest every other week. “Not having to constantly worry about getting enough healthy food after paying rent and other necessities is a huge relief.”

    The North York Harvest strives to maintain an accessible and equitable network so that the most vulnerable, especially families with children and seniors, can receive the support they need. Currently North York Harvest is providing emergency food to more than 2,500 individuals each week.

    Our service is made possible by the generosity of community members like The Schulich Foundation.  Please join us in spreading hope, health and well-being for the community, and double your impact before the end of September.

    The Schulich Foundation, one of North York Harvest’s long-standing supporters, wants to ensure the generosity of neighbours-helping-neighbours has an even greater impact and will match all donations, dollar-for-dollar up to $100,000, until September 30. 

  4. North York Harvest’s After the Bell Program

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    In Canada, under 20 per cent of the population are children. Nevertheless, they account for almost 35 per cent of food bank recipients. This summer, Food Banks Canada is determined to fight these statistics through its “After the Bell” program. Last year, 130,000 healthy food packs were distributed across the country in an effort to nourish kids in need. This year, the organization hopes to deliver 150,000 packs, which contain both shelf-stable and perishable items. 

    For the past few years, North York Harvest has been fortunate to be part of this initiative. As one of the largest urban centres in Canada, communities across Toronto have been among some of the hardest hit during the pandemic. The situation is exacerbated by school closures and the winding down of various social support programs, including the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB). Parents are no longer able to depend on meal programs and turn to food banks due to the lack of a better alternative. 

    Through the grant program North York Harvest is able to purchase fresh food such as apples, sugar snap peas, cheese, and yogurt to include in the nutritious food packs. With the support of Food Banks Canada the teams at our community food spaces and network agencies are better equipped to serve families and children throughout the summer months, and leading them into a brighter and healthier school year ahead.

  5. Pop-Up Shop for Pets In Partnership with the Humane Society of Canada

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    Last month, North York Harvest partnered with Humane Society International/Canada and Friends of HSI to hold a pet food pop-up at the Bathurst and Finch Community Food Space. The purpose of this event was to provide support to those in need of assistance in caring for their companion animals. Those impacted by the pandemic were offered free dog and cat food as well as treats and supplies for their pets.

    “Since the start of the pandemic, our team’s focused mission has been to help keep pets in their homes. We have seen the unmistakable and often severe impact that COVID-19 has had on communities around Toronto and the rest of the province. We also know that the struggles and the lasting impact on people’s lives continues. We are grateful for this partnership with North York Harvest Food Bank as we join together to provide continued relief for people and their pets,” says Larysa Struk, Project Manager for the Ontario COVID-19 Animal Response Program at Friends of HSI.

    Here at North York Harvest, we realize that for many individuals and families, pets have provided a much needed source of support, especially during the pandemic. At the same time, pet ownership is an added expense for many in our community. “With access to quality pet food and supplies, we are helping our community members ensure the well-being of their companions,” Henry Chiu, Director of Development & Marketing. “By partnering with the Humane Society International/Canada, we can further expand our existing support for pets which benefits the long-term health of all members of our community.”

  6. Everyone Can Be A Hero

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    Family, friends and relaxation, that’s what summer should be all about. But for many families in our community, summer adds a significant stress as they grapple with additional food costs. In fact, summer is the time of year when our community’s food needs are at a peak, yet we receive our lowest level of donations. With your support, we can continue helping nourish families who turn to North York Harvest to meet their food needs.

    During the pandemic you have helped make the Hamper Hero Virtual Food Drive a major success! While in-person food drives were not possible, the generous support North York Harvest received from families, schools and community groups was incredible. As we head into the summer months, the positive response continues with an increasing number of community members participating in virtual food drives. Our community continues to need your support, and we’re pleased to be able to help families with your contributions.

    Here are some tips for increasing the impact of your Virtual Food Drive

    Goal Setting: While it may seem simple, setting a fundraising target creates excitement for everyone who donates. Consider setting a reward for meeting your target to get everyone even more engaged.

    Make It Special: Select a date and host a kick-off event that gets everyone on board. Consider engaging your network by sharing a video about the work that North York Harvest does.

    Give Regular Reminders: Keep your group updated on the success of your Virtual Food Drive by sharing via social media platforms. Encourage everyone who has contributed to share on their social media channels and remember to tag North York Harvest too!

    Are you interested in hosting a virtual food drive with your friends and family? Find out how you can get involved.

  7. Growing Stronger Through Our Network

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    Over the past 18 months, our partner agencies have been able to rely on our ongoing support in many different service areas. Operated by volunteers, Community Share Food Bank has been able to continue helping more than 150 families meet their food needs every week. Established in 2005, Community Share Food Bank provides fresh and non-perishable food to families on a weekly basis. As a member of our agency network, Community Share strives to provide healthier, more food secure community by creating a space where people can come together and feel a sense of belonging. Community Share Food Bank, that would not have been able to serve the community without resources available through North York Harvest.

    “Being able to lean on North York Harvest’s expertise as a larger, parent agency that has emergency plans in place and the resources available, we can grow, build and move forward in a much stronger way.” Diane Enhorning, past chair Community Share

    As a partner with North York Harvest, during the pandemic Community Food Share relied even more to get up and running quickly. Beginning with getting access to the Toronto Public Library’s Don Mills location to developing the infrastructure needed to operate safely, Diane credits the partnership with North York Harvest as being a major contributing factor to the ongoing success of Community Share’s programs.

    Now with a program manager in place, along with policies and procedures and the connections Community Share has established as a North York Harvest partner agency, Enhorning is looking forward to continuing to work, learn and grow. With brighter days on the horizon, it is an exciting time for Community Share to be able to bring additional resources and programs to the neighbourhood.

  8. Cultivating A Resilient Community

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    “While there have been so many new challenges over the last year, I feel incredibly privileged to have had the opportunity to work alongside North York Harvest staff and board members to accelerate our work together.” says Habon Ali, North York Harvest’s new board chair.

    Habon has been an urban and city building planner in Toronto for nearly a decade. She joined the North York Harvest Board of Directors three years ago to learn more about community-based food models and to support organizations and agencies working directly on food related causes in her neighbourhood. 

    As board chair, Habon is working with board members to ensure the principles and values of the organization are reflected in decision making. “One of the areas we are focused on is internal board education and board recruitment. We are looking closely at the skills and experiences that we have at the table” she explains, “along with being best positioned to support the organization we also want to ensure that our board reflects the community we serve.”

    We recently caught up with Habon for her perspective on the issues surrounding food security post-Covid, and how community partnerships are key to moving forward.         
     
    North York Harvest: Why is it important for food banks to have a community connection that goes beyond being an emergency food source?
     
    Habon Ali: We know that food banks initially surfaced to support neighbourhoods and communities with immediate needs and were not intended to be a long-term solution. And while we need to continue providing food support, we also want to be able to help address some of the broader challenges our communities are facing. The work we do with Food Reach is a great demonstration of this because along with being able to support smaller agencies with food needs.
     
    NYH: Food insecurity has become a real-life focus for so many in the past 18 months. As a leader, what learnings have you been able to take away from these times that will continue to strengthen North York Harvest moving forward?
     
    HA: North York Harvest’s ability to pivot and be resilient will continue to build strength. It was incredible to see the Toronto Public Library partnership happen and the connections formed between services that many people see as sometimes operating in silos. We hope we will see more opportunities to leverage these types of partnerships and with connections outside of the food space.  The issues and challenges we are facing touch on many other areas, and we are starting to really lean into new synergies and opportunities for cross sector collaboration.
     
    NYH: In what ways can all levels of government, business, and non-profit ensure equitable access to healthy affordable food options?
     
    HA: Part of the work we are seeing is better recognition of the reasons why people in our communities face food challenges which is linked to a lack of sustainable incomes, affordable housing, transportation and childcare. So the conversations we are having are not just about getting food in our warehouses but also about looking at what is keeping people in food insecure positions. By looking at policy decisions and collaborating with other social agencies we are able to take a holistic approach and can work towards creating more equitable and inclusive communities. It’s a big conversation that requires everyone to be involved.
     
    NYH: What excites you most about NYHFB’s future, in particular in a post-pandemic world?

    HA: I have been encouraged by conversations about race and anti-oppression and what we can do to support those who have historically been underrepresented in our community. There is an openness and a desire to have tough conversations and integrate what we learn into the work we are doing.  I’m excited about the direction these conversations are taking us, and the eagerness to keep this moving forward.