What if you simply couldn’t afford the food your child needed to be well?
That’s an issue that I must face each day.
My name is Jessica. My 9 year old son, David, lives with a disability. His doctors say he has to avoid processed foods with lots of salt and sugar because they can make his condition worse.
As you know, it’s much easier to afford processed foods than it is to purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and whole grains. It can be such a struggle just to get a healthy meal on the table.
That’s why I am so grateful for North York Harvest Food Bank as well as the donors and volunteers that make these programs possible. Being able to visit the food bank makes giving David the food he needs so much easier.
I know how much these foods matter to families using food banks, not just from the impact they make in my home, but through my volunteer work. I’ve been volunteering at the food bank for as long as I’ve been a client. When we have fresh food to offer, I watch my neighbours faces light up.
I come home from every volunteer shift knowing I made a difference.
And we need YOU to help us make a difference more than ever this summer!
Summer is a difficult time at the food bank. Food donations aren’t as frequent so we have less food to share. With the kids out of school, they don’t have access to school food programs that are vital to their health.
So many of the families I see at the food bank are going through the same thing. This is why your support is so important right now.
By making a gift to North York Harvest, they can purchase the food our communities need, so no one is forced to go without during the summer.
I know what a difference your support of the food bank makes. Every time I sit down with my kids at the table to share a meal, I feel grateful that I’m part of a community that cares so much about each other.
Be a Summer Hero and your impact will be TRIPLED this summer. Every $1 you give, will be stretched to $3 worth of meals for people in need of food in your community! DONATE TODAY!
Comments Off on “I wanted to make sure others have the same chance I did.” – How Theresa Pays it Forward
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?
Comments Off on Setting the Table – The Power of a Meal
A message from Aniska Ali, North York Harvest’s New Director of Development and Marketing
As Thanksgiving approaches, I, like many of you, am preparing to welcome family and friends to my home. Pumpkin printed napkins have been fished out of storage containers, recipes have been bookmarked, and shopping lists have been made. My daughter has been collecting leaves for weeks for our table’s centerpiece, her part of our family’s annual tradition. On Monday, she’ll help set the table, and I’ll fuss in the kitchen, bickering with my husband and my sister about how much sage to add to the stuffing and how frequently to baste the turkey. These are our rituals, these are the acts that make Thanksgiving familiar and special – these are things I’ll remember as time goes by.
Food is a big part of my life. Talking about the power of it, and sadly, the lack of it for so many in our community fills my days. What often gets lost in our rush to make sure there’s enough is an understanding of the role food plays in uniting us. The sharing and enjoyment of a meal is a simple, but profound, pleasure that brings us together, across cultures, ages and backgrounds. Eating together is, and should be, a daily experience of connection.
Unfortunately that is simply not the case for the 15,000 people we serve each month. Skyrocketing housing prices, precarious employment and social assistance rates that have failed to keep up with the cost of the living put the joy food brings out of reach for so many of our neighbours. Sadly, we know all too well that loneliness and isolation go hand in hand with living in poverty.
That’s why North York Harvest offers programs like community kitchens to give people in our neighbourhood a chance to meet friends, cook together, and share a meal in a welcoming place.
As Maudlyn, one of our members and a retired caterer told us recently, “This program is a commitment to myself. It gets me out of the house to socialize with others. My favourite part is actually setting the table, it feels like we are having a real family meal”.
Thank you for making stories like Maudlyn’s possible. Thank you for believing as we do that, everyone deserves a safe place where they can meet people, build friendships, feel included and eat delicious food regardless of their income. Thank you for investing in programs like these that make North York Harvest so much more than a food bank. We hope you know just how much your support means to us and the community we serve.
Every day, people in your community rely on food banks to put food on the table for their families. In fact, North York Harvest helps more than 15,000 people meet their basic food needs each month. Many people don’t know that over 30% of people using our food bank are children – and a growing number of them in our community will be going back to school this year without enough food to be healthy and successful in school.
Tricia is a teacher at Beaumonde Heights Junior Middle School, one of our local schools. She sees many students coming to school with empty stomachs. Her students understand what it is like to use a food bank – either because their own family uses one, or one of their friends.
Beaumonde Heights JMS has hosted food drives for North York Harvest for 15 years, and this year is no different. All students get involved in the food drive to support their school, friends and neighbours. They know just how important these programs are.
Of course, childhood hunger is a symptom of family poverty. North York Harvest and our agencies are on the frontlines of a childhood poverty epidemic: according to a recent report, nearly 27% of children in Toronto live in poverty. In the North York community, that percentage is much higher. In some of our neighborhoods, almost 44% of children are living in poverty – and are much less likely to have access to enough healthy food to be successful in school.
We are facing serious challenges in this community. But every day, we are inspired by acts of compassion from people like Tricia who are determined to make a difference in the lives of kids in North York.
Today you can take action to join Tricia and the students from Beaumonde Heights in making a difference for kids heading back to school this fall. By making a gift to North York Harvest Food Bank you will be helping thousands of kids and their parents that rely on programs that provide healthy meals and snacks.
All children, no matter where they live or what their circumstances, deserve the same opportunity to succeed.
The North York Harvest Food Bank offers a number of programs and services in addition to our warehousing and distribution operations. Our top priority in running these spaces is to have incredible customer service for anyone that comes to our programs.
Find out more about each of these amazing community spaces and those that we serve in these programs.
The Oriole Food Space, located in the Oriole Community Centre at 2975 Don Mills Road West, is a multi-use community food space designed to build a healthy community, together, through food. It does so by offering a variety of programs, including community kitchens, drop-in food bank hours, food skills workshops, gardening workshops, and farm trips.
Bathurst Finch Community Food Space
The Bathurst-Finch Community Food Bank supports local individuals and families with food assistance and helps to create connections with other neighbourhood resources. The program also works to foster community participation and action around food-related issues and it will regularly host visiting agencies, deliver workshops and run field trips for participants.
Lawrence Heights Community Food Space
The Lawrence Heights Community Food Space is located at 6 Pengarth Ct. The program provides an on site community food bank, community garden, as well as information and referral services to a wide range of community resources and supports, extending beyond food assistance.
Would you like to support these amazing programs?
We’re always looking for donors to sponsor daily food bank activities, community kitchens, community gardens, farm trips and events that mean so much to our community members! Contact Leslie to get involved – 416-635-777 x 21 / email@example.com
This week’s guest blog is a client story by Holly. Thank you so much Holly for sharing your story!
Guest blog by Holly B
My name is Holly and for most of my adult life I have been transient.
I also suffer with mental health and physical problems. I am unable to work and found it very hard to settle down. Although for the last couple of years I have found permanent housing. I thought I would be able to do everything on my own.
I was able to pay my rent, phone and medications with the little money I had. Food was always last. Being a type 1 diabetic that takes insulin every day, eating properly is very important. I soon found that I could not do everything on my own. I found the closest food bank to me and soon found out I was receiving more than help with my food. I found a sense of community.I was meeting new people and gave me a good reason to get out of my house and not isolate myself.
At this point in my life I was in a bad relationship and the woman who patiently listens to everyone and their problems every Thursday offered me a opportunity to give back to the community and separate myself from my partner at the time. I was given the gift to help every week with deliveries. Now not only have I made new friends, community, help with food in my fridge, I was also given the gift to give back. I no longer just have a place to live, I have a home!
There has been quite a lot of talk about basic income lately in the news. A basic income is a guarantee to Canadian families and individuals that they will be able to meet a minimum income level regardless of employment status.
This could mean big things for the hundreds of thousands of people in Toronto that struggle to make ends meet to pay for everyday needs such as rent, utilities, transit and food.
This has come up for a lot of debate among Canadians. It also raises a lot of questions about the impact on our communities and economy. In an effort to answer some of the most asked questions about basic income, I spoke with Elaine Power, co-founder of the Kingston Action Group for Basic Income Guarantee.
How do you think basic income will benefit the community?
If we had a basic income program that was available to all who needed it and a basic income program that effectively eliminated poverty, there could be dramatic benefits to the community. The research suggests that public health would improve and health care costs would drop. Eliminating poverty means that kids would have a better start in life, do better in school and have fairer chances in life, and this could also decrease crime rates over time.
If we take away the desperate need for people to find any kind of work that they can, it could liberate people to engage their passion and contribute to their communities through volunteer work and the arts, or to take risks, e.g., with a small business, that they wouldn’t otherwise do. When people have basic economic security, it enables them to dare to do new & different things.
I believe that a basic income program will help build social solidarity, to rebuild a sense of the collective, that we are part of neighbourhoods and communities.
How will this impact the economy & the taxpayer?
People who live in poverty spend their money on basic necessities, like food, shelter, clothing, activities for their kids. They won’t be taking their money out of the country for expensive vacations. That will have an economic multiplier effect, and could make a profound impact in smaller, more rural communities that are struggling.
Research shows that poverty has a high economic cost and that poverty reduction has a big return on investment. A report by the Ontario Association of Food Banks suggested “With the huge savings that could be achieved over time by reducing poverty and its burdensome social costs, the province could very likely pay for the need mix of policies without asking taxpayers for anything more.” The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has calculated that every dollar invested in reducing poverty would result in about a $2 return on investment. In other words, poverty reduction is at worst cost-neutral and likely would save money over time.
Do you feel as though there could be any negatives/drawbacks that come from having a basic income?
Well, the negatives or drawbacks depend on the type of basic income program that would get implemented. There are different models. Some on the political right would like to see the implementation of a basic income in order to reduce other government supports and services, like public housing. This would not improve the lives of people living in poverty or likely reduce poverty overall, because people would have to pay more of their income for what are now public services. We would not see the types of economic savings I mentioned above in that case.
I am a proponent of a progressive basic income that is part of rebuilding the social safety net, would improve the lives of people living in poverty and would result in dramatic reductions – or the virtual elimination – of poverty.
How will this affect the food bank and food bank users?
The best sign of the effectiveness of basic income or any poverty reduction/elimination strategy would be that food banks are able to close up because of lack of demand. Those who founded food banks back in the 1980’s thought that food banks were an “emergency” response to an economic downturn and that they would close once the economy improved. I have a report from a meeting of food banks in Toronto and area from 1991 that wrestles with the question of when and how Toronto food banks might close. An effective basic income would allow food bank users to acquire food like everyone else. They still might choose to attend hot meal programs, food skills programs, community gardens and community kitchens – but there will be more freedom and choice to do that, not a sense of dire need.
Is the proposed amount of $16,989 enough to get by for individuals?
Like social assistance, the problem with a fixed amount is that the cost of living varies quite a lot across the province – from Toronto to Windsor to northern Ontario. As I understand it, the rationale for making it less than the LICO ( low income cut-offs) or the LIM ( Low Income Measure) is that people will get other federal income transfers, like the GST credit. But I suppose part of the idea of the pilot is to assess if the amount is enough.
Others, like Guy Caron, who is a candidate in the federal NDP leadership race, has proposed a basic income that would be set using the Low Income Cut-off or LICO which is adjusted for city and family size.
What do you say about the idea from opposers that people will go on BI just to “stay home and be lazy”?
This is probably the most common oppositional response to the idea!!
If you ask people if they (personally) would just stay home, everyone says “of course not!.” The reality is that about 70% of people who live in poverty are working, which speaks to the inadequacy of minimum wages.
The reality is that any basic income, whether the Ontario pilot amount or an amount tied to the LICO, is not luxurious. Most people will want to seek paid employment to supplement their incomes. And most people work for reasons other than money.
And the other issue that this objection is based on is that the only work that is valuable is paid employment. We do all sorts of unpaid, unrecognized, invisible work at home and in our communities, including all the volunteer work that gets done for and at food banks. This is valuable and important work. What basic income will help us do is to decide where to put our time and energies in activities that are meaningful and important for us and for our communities. Some people may “stay home and be lazy” for a little while. Most people would not do that for very long – and if they do, perhaps they need other services to help them find meaningful activity.
The benefits of a progressive and effective basic income for those living in poverty and for our communities overshadow the objection that a small percentage of people might “stay home and be lazy.”