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!
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 / firstname.lastname@example.org
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.”
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit with the incredible volunteers and clients at the Bathurst Finch Community Food Space. Located in a tiny room inside Northview Heights Secondary School, the hustle and bustle of getting prepared for the upcoming drop in made the room buzz. Operating outside of school hours, volunteers make sure the shelves are stocked and fridges full to help community members put food on the table.
Elis, who manages the food space, treats everyone that enters like family. Everyone is in this together and a VIP in the eyes of the caring volunteers.
One of the VIP clients using the food bank is Anna. Anna has been living in Canada for 11 years after leaving Uzbekistan because she was unable to find work.
After working 9 years at local Russian grocery stores, Anna had a child named Nikita and found herself out of work in order to take care of him each day. She had to go on social assistance but unfortunately that wasn’t enough to cover all of her expenses from rent and utilities to food and baby supplies. She was in a bind.
While searching for a way to get baby powder and baby food, Anna came to the Bathurst Finch Community Food Space. When she arrived, the helpful volunteers let her know that not only she could receive baby products, but she was also given food for herself. Anna was amazed by the kindness and generosity that was located right in her neighbourhood. She has been coming to the food bank for the past year now which has helped her stretch her small income.
To get to the food bank, Anna walks with Nikita in his stroller. During the harsh winter months, she was unable to take her stroller through the icy and snowy sidewalks and had no way to access the food bank. Thomas, a volunteer, took the time to drop off food to her home for three months so Anna and Nikita wouldn’t have to go without. “It was amazing that someone was willing to come and help us out when we couldn’t get around,” says Anna, “the food bank volunteers are wonderful!”
After Anna’s father passed away, her mother is still living in Uzbekistan alone. Anna hopes that her mother will be able to join her in Canada so they can be together again. “If she comes to stay with me, she’ll be able to help take care of Nikita so I can go back to school and get a full time job,” says Anna who dreams of becoming a paralegal one day to support her family.
Anna would recommend that anyone who needs help in her neighbourhood visit the Bathurst Finch Community Food Space. “They are so caring and have been so helpful to Nikita and myself. If someone is in need of help they will bring you in and treat you like family.”
At the Bathurst Finch Community Food Space, it is about more than just putting food on the table, it’s about bringing family to that table.
One everyday hero located right in your community is Kayla*. I recently had the opportunity to meet Kayla at the North York Harvest Annual General Meeting back in February. We were in a workshop together and she shared her experiences as a food bank volunteer. I needed to hear more so I could share her story with you.
Kayla has been a volunteer at her local food bank for more than two years dedicating her time six days per week. This is quite incredible as Kayla suffers from many health issues such as a degenerative disk disease in her back, panic attacks, insomnia and is waiting to have knee surgery. This doesn’t stop our hero though; she chooses to work through the pain to make a difference in the lives of her neighbours in need. “If I could have sleepovers here I would!” jokes Kayla.
Kayla’s tasks at the food bank include receiving deliveries, stocking shelves, serving clients and records management. She even packs and delivers food hampers for the “Fresh Start” program that does home deliveries for seniors as well as those unable to physically make it to the food bank.The services she and her other fellow volunteers provide benefit children, families, seniors, those with disabilities and people who can’t leave their home.
A typical food hamper from a NYH food bank
Regardless of Kayla’s health problems, she feels that giving her time at the food bank gives her something else to focus on and a purpose. She strives to make a difference in the lives of her fellow neighbours. This can be done through her daily food bank tasks or even going above and beyond to help someone in need. One particular story of Kayla’s is a time that she was able to assist a client with her job search. The client had needed to know CPR in order to be eligible for a job but could not afford the training. Kayla took the time to research and found a course that was offered for free.
Kayla told me that seeing a smile on the face of someone she has helped is so rewarding in her work.
It absolutely blows me away when I see this kind of dedication from volunteers. And it is throughout the network! Each day volunteers take time out of their day to come in and help their neighbours meet their food needs.
Without your support, we wouldn’t be able to have incredible stories like this to share.From you to me, me to Kayla, Kayla to the client and back to you again – we are really part of something bigger than ourselves. I feel that being able to share these stories truly closes the circle of connectivity in our community
Join Kayla in being a community hero!
Together we all work as a community to make a difference for more than 15,000 people that access these types of programs each month!
Sometimes little things and family traditions can make a big impact.
Not too long ago I had a chance to meet with one of our many wonderful donors; to get to know her and her family a little better and understand why they choose to give to North York Harvest.
Meet Lynn & Andrew.
I stopped by their home in North York one afternoon as Lynn was preparing a spaghetti dinner for her son Andrew before he headed off to Air Cadets.
Lynn, a lawyer and community volunteer, has always wanted her son Andrew to know that he has advantages that other people right in his own community do not have. Lynn told us that when Andrew was as young as five years old he was already making a difference and giving to the food bank. “Every time we went to the grocery store, Andrew would pick groceries out to donate for little boys his own age. We called it ‘The Little Boy Box’.”
That sense of giving back to his community never left Andrew. Years later he joined his classmates during a volunteer session at North York Harvest. He enjoyed his experience so much that he became a summer volunteer at the Lawrence Heights Community Food Space to help his neighbours access healthy food.
Andrew’s commitment inspired Lynn to become a NYHFB supporter. “It’s sad to see that some families don’t have enough. We all deserve to have our basic needs met. I feel good knowing that my donations will go towards helping people in need,” shares Lynn. “Anybody could need a food bank at any time. This shouldn’t be the norm.”
Giving back to the community and ensuring their neighbours meet their food needs continues to be a tradition.
And even though Andrew is all grown up, Lynn makes sure to put a few extra items in her cart for the “Little Boy Box” when she’s at the grocery store.
Do you want to get more involved like Lynn and Andrew? We’d love to have you join us!
What do you usually do on Family Day? The holiday is not even a decade old but has already given millions of Canadians an extra day off during the year to take a break and enjoy time with family.
Kathy, Matthew and Christian volunteer regularly at the food bank as a family activity. We love having them around giving support and helping us out with corporate and community sort groups.
When I think of Family Day, I think about families doing something special together. And The Leeder-Chiarottos demonstrate that each day!
Matthew and Christian took some time to answer questions I had just in time for the upcoming holiday.
Tell us about yourselves
We are two brothers, 10 and 12 years old. We live in North York with our mom, dad and our two precious cats Sam and Dean.
How long have you been volunteering?
We have been volunteering with the North York Harvest Food Bank for about a year and a half now.
Why did you decide to volunteer as a family?
We decided to volunteer as a family because we feel pretty lucky for everything that we have. My mom is big on helping others so she wanted us to learn to do the same. There is a lot of negative in the world and we would like to be the positive.
Why choose to volunteer with the food bank?
When you volunteer you need to choose wisely about how you will spend your time. There are not a lot of volunteer opportunities for kids our age that are interesting or that you can get promoted for doing good work.
My mom looked at a bunch of different things for us to do together and when she spoke to Lisa at North York Harvest, she was really positive about us coming in. We love to cook as a family and volunteering with food seemed like a good fit.
Since joining the team, we have had the chance to sort food, help with corporate groups as well as promote the food bank to the community. We have learned a lot about the problems people face putting good food on their tables at home.
Matthew & Christian with MPP Laura Albanese
What is your favourite part about volunteering as a family?
We like volunteering together because we talk and have fun. We meet interesting people and learn from everyone we connect with. After we sort food together or work with a corporate group we feel great. You know that you are making a difference with your family and that’s rewarding.
“You know that you are making a difference with your family and that’s rewarding”
What do you do outside of volunteering?
Outside of volunteering we play a lot of hockey in the winter and golf and tennis in the summer. We hang out with our friends and travel with our parents.
What do you tell your friends about your volunteering experience?
I tell them it is a great experience. Volunteering has changed my life and how I view things. I see that people are less fortunate than I am and I want to help people more. – Christian
The atmosphere at the food bank is great. Everyone is very friendly. Our friends have all asked us if they could come to sort food and help out. When we come to the food bank we don’t see the people who donate and we don’t see the clients that receive the food but we see all the people that come together in the middle to make it happen. Working with all these people, with their own reasons for volunteering, is so fascinating, uplifting and rewarding. Who knew that checking expiry dates, sorting food, making boxes, weighing all the donations could bring so many people together. – Matthew
Any memorable stories you’d like to share?
Last Christmas we were asked if we could help deliver some Christmas presents for one of the Food Bank programs. We all went out over the weekend to make sure that the kids received their gifts. All the kids were so happy to receive something special for themselves. It was moving because we were helping people get their Christmas. We were happy for our own Christmas because we were part of this experience.
One of the corporate groups we worked with was so cool that they decided to do a mannequin challenge during the food sorting. We had been in a flash mob before but never a mannequin challenge. Once everyone stopped laughing we all froze into position while they filmed. They put it to music and posted it on YouTube.
What would you say to someone that was thinking of becoming a volunteer?
Definitely don’t just think about volunteering. Volunteer! Even if you are a kid you can make a difference.
What are your family day plans?
We will make breakfast for our parents because we make wicked pancakes. We’ll probably play a few games. Watch an episode of the X Files. Chill with our cats. Make dinner together in a family master chef challenge
It’s so great hearing about different volunteer experiences! It truly enriches the lives of not only the person benefiting from the service, but also the volunteers themselves.
Thank you so much to Kathy, Matthew and Christian for making a huge difference in the warehouse and in the community!
Each and every day in the food bank I meet people from all walks of life. Each with their own story to tell. But even though the story is different, we all have a similar goal in life… to take care of our families.
I first met Layla when I was working at Oriole Food Space in North York. She moved to Canada with her family to seek refuge from a home that was no longer safe.
“Everything was gone. Our home, our jobs, our kids couldn’t go to school anymore. We were scared,” she shared with me.
She came to Canada and was able to reconnect with members of her extended family already living in our community. Layla and her family were overjoyed with the chance to start anew after a life of uncertainty and fear. “My kids were enrolled in school and my husband was working in a restaurant. It finally seemed as though things were turning around for us.”
But then the unexpected happened. Her husband suffered a severe heart attack and could no longer work at his restaurant job to support the family.
Once again, Layla felt like she had lost everything. She had to make sure that her kids had a roof over their head and food in their bellies. Unsure of how to support her family, she turned to one of her new neighbours for advice. They told her about her local food bank. She didn’t even know that such places existed in our community to help her and others in need.
Because of YOUR support, we are able to help people like Layla to make sure that they have access to nutritious food. Thank you for making a difference!
Daffodil and OFS Volunteers
We are also able to help with referrals for other community programs to assist newcomers with their language skills, resume building and child care.
Layla had lost many things, but it doesn’t have to mean that it is lost forever. “Because of the food bank, I was able to feed my kids, feel safe and build a new life. I am so grateful.”
Together we can help people in need rebuild what was lost.
As we enter into the coldest months of winter, the food bank shelves will begin to empty. We need your help to ensure that when families like Layla’s come to the food bank, there will be enough food to share.
Please give generously today to keep food on our shelves so our neighbours can feed their families. Give today so that this winter none one goes hungry.