Because of supporters like you, we spent 2017 working with our community to help our most vulnerable neighbours meet their food needs, and find long-term solutions to poverty and food insecurity.
Here are some of our favourite moments.
We had our first ever garden since moving to Pengarth Crt in Lawrence Heights, and were able to run multiple harvest festivals throughout the city.
A joint garden-kitchen program with youth in partnership with PACT at the Lawrence Heights site, teaching kids about the importance of fresh food and healthy eating.
We supported the first ever farmers market at the Bathurst Finch hub, and now there is a weekly good food market on site every Wednesday.
Ensuring consistent service throughout our network of partner agencies
All of our food banks and member agencies are different, but it’s important that no matter where people live in North York that they receive the same standard of service.
This year we also took on a major network wide evaluation of our 19 catchment food banks, based on our Standard of Service. Clients at each site were surveyed and the programs were assigned a score out of 5 on areas such as accessibility, quality and quantity of food, customer service etc. We hope to repeat this assessment on an annual basis.
Our AMAZING donors
As always, our donors blow us away with incredible generosity and support of their community! Young Zack is no different, in just the first grade he’s making a difference for his neighbours. This past holiday season he popped by with cans of tuna that he purchased with his gift money.
Stronger Together: Increasing Services and Impact
We worked with many community agencies to bring enhanced programming and services to our members, including:
Toronto Public Health dental bus at Oriole Food Space. This bus offered free dental care to those who otherwise would go without this necessity!
Smoking cessation workshops
Hearing tests for clients
Diabetes prevention and management programs
We launched the Community Food Works program in partnership with Toronto Public Health’s food strategy at Oriole; a program that teaches food handlers training and food skills to low income individuals. Our pilot at OFS was targeted to Arabic speaking newcomers.
A resident based advocacy and food security program
Several community kitchen programs
Healthy Food Matters! Focusing our Food Drive on Priority Items
This year we worked more intentionally with our fabulous food drive organizers to improve the quality of food we offer to our members. We asked them to hold single food item drives choosing from a list of 5 priority items: Rice, Oil, Canned Beans, Canned Seafood and Canned Tomatoes. These staples are versatile, nutrient-dense foods our network needs to maintain good health. Thanks to our incredible community who helped us answer the call for healthy food!
Leadership in Logistics
With the support from the Metcalf Foundation and The Learning Enrichment Foundation we have launched an exciting new program for individuals currently receiving Ontario Works. Aside from being a stepping stone in breaking the cycle of poverty, the program gives participants a chance to take charge of their own lives with the confidence and training to succeed in promising careers.
It’s that time of year again! CBC is teaming up with food banks across the GTA to raise food and funds to make sure our communities have the food they need to thrive.
Sadly, we at North York Harvest, along with other GTA food banks, need your support now more than ever. Local, provincial and national reports are showing alarming statistics regarding food bank use in our communities.
Food bank use is up across Toronto, with the greatest increase in use happening in the inner suburbs, like North York. 16,000 people will turn to us this month alone to keep food on their tables.
1 in 3 food bank users are children
35% of food bank users will go an entire day without eating
Food bank usage of seniors has skyrocketed 26.5% in the past year
Here’s how our community is taking action to change those alarming findings:
Hilltop Middle School has partnered with us throughout the CBC Sounds of the Season Event. They are focused on collecting the food bank items that are vital to the health of our neighbours struggling to put food on the table: rice, canned tomatoes, canned fish, beans and lentils and cooking oil.
These amazing students have been working hard to make sure people in their community have nutritious food to eat. Their activities have included hosting a school assembly, holding a class competition to collect food, and using their school newsletter and class activities to share information about hunger in Toronto.
One of the students even went Trick or Treating on Halloween to collect items for North York Harvest instead of candy. AMAZING!
To celebrate the incredible work done by the students of Hilltop and the other schools participating on behalf of other food banks, we’ll all be having a friendly food sort competition at the Daily Bread Food Bank location on Friday December 8th.
CBC has been a phenomenal partner in spreading the word about the state of poverty and food insecurity in the city and how food banks across the GTA are taking action on these issues. Our Forklift Instructor Tammy was featured in an inspiring story talking about her journey from food bank user to working here at NYH and the joy that her family felt about her success –you can read it here!
Last year you raised $727,226 through Sounds of the Season for GTA Food Banks!
This year we need you more than ever to make sure everyone in our community can access the healthy food they need to thrive!
Look to the person on your left, now look to the person on your right. Chances are that 1 of the 3 of you are living with diabetes or prediabetes. And, alarmingly, you may be one of the 1.5 million people in Canada who have no idea that they have this disease.
Diabetes is a pressing concern for our members. People living in poverty have a much higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes and treating diabetes is especially difficult for people who use food banks because of the lack of fresh, healthy food available. So we’re working to take action on this critical health issue facing our community.
Over the past year North York Harvest & Flemingdon Health Centre have teamed up to provide Diabetes Education Programs for residents in the Don Mills area. Our goal is to provide these programs quarterly for those living with or caring for those with diabetes.
We had a chance to speak with Elena Sobolev, Certified Diabetes Educator & Registered Dietitian regarding these life saving programs.
How did you determine the need for these programs through the food bank?
We have looked at a few areas where clients accessing food banks can benefit from our program. This includes food insecurity, which can be one important risk factor for those living with diabetes or even those who are at high risk; newcomers who need to prioritize settling in and putting food on the table, instead of paying attention to their health, etc.
How many people have participated in the program?
15 participants attended our June session, and 12 participants attended our September session
What is the link between diabetes and poverty?
We know that poverty is a strong risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. The chronic stress of low income living can increase the levels of cortisol (a stress-hormone), which can result in elevated blood sugar levels. Also, individuals who live in poverty often struggle with access to healthy foods and physical activity programs, which in turn can increase the risk for type 2 diabetes.
What kind of barriers does one in poverty face when dealing with diabetes?
There is a number of barriers faced by individuals who live in poverty. These include lack of access to healthy foods, physical activity programs, as well as high cost of diabetes medications and medical equipment (ex: blood sugar test strips).
What are the effects of untreated diabetes in one that does not have proper access to care or healthy food?
Unfortunately, the consequences of poorly controlled diabetes are quite severe. People can develop problems with their kidneys, eyes, nerves (which can results in amputations), and heart disease (heart attack or stroke).
More and more people of all ages are living with diabetes and being educated is so important. November is Diabetes Awareness month and a great opportunity to learn more about how to take care of yourself and those who love. Please visit https://www.diabetes.ca/ to learn more.
Often when we think of poverty, we don’t think about how deep the problem is in our very own backyard.
In North York, poverty hides in high rise apartments, rooming houses and shelters. Often food is the last priority on a long list of bills that must be paid by our neighbours who are struggling to make ends meet each month.
All too often, we hear stories like Holly’s.
“I always thought I could do it on my own. I was able to pay my rent, phone, and medications with the little money I had. Food was always last on my list. Being a type 1 diabetic that takes insulin every day, eating properly is very important. I soon realized that I could not do everything on my own.
I found the food bank and soon found out I was receiving more than help with my food. I found a sense of community”.
Because of skyrocketing housing prices, unsteady employment and social assistance rates that have failed to keep up with the cost of the living in our city – thousands of our neighbours are struggling to get by each day. Together we can change that.
Your support provides more than food. It provides social inclusion through programs like Community Kitchens, employment readiness training like our Leadership in Logistics program and ensures we can continue to invest in long term solutions to end hunger and poverty. We know that food banks alone aren’t the answer. With your help, we can make sure providing essential emergency food support is just the start of the relationship we build with those that need us most.
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 / 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.”
There are some pretty amazing and thoughtful kids in your community!
One of the greatest partnerships that NYH has in the community is with our local schools. The partnership allows us to educate students about food security in their community and show them why people they know such as schoolmates or even friends and family use a food bank. In turn, students take on a very large and important role in advocating for support of everyone’s food needs. From food drives to fundraising, we are so incredibly grateful for these amazing kids!
Our guest blog is by Christmel, Ayse and Aishat in grades 4 & 5 at Blaydon Public School!
Written by Christmel and Ayse, Presidents of Healthy Fit Company & Aishat, Production Manager (Grade 4/5)
On April 26, 2017, the grade 4/5 class, with the help of some grade 3 students, organized and ran a Fit Fair! There were all kinds of activities with the goal of helping our school community stay fit. From smoothies to basketball, yoga to origami and so much more!
Our main goal was to donate $300 to North York Harvest Food Bank, but we ended up raising $1082! It was a lot of planning and organizing but it was a great success. Representatives from the North York Harvest Food Bank visited our class the week after our event and told us that of all of the schools that have fundraised for them, we were the school that raised the most. That means, we were able to provide over 3000 much needed meals!
We thought the Fit Fair made the most sense with our vision of helping our school become healthier and more fit. And since food plays an important role in being healthy, we decided to donate all the profits to the food bank. At this time of year, the food banks have more need than supply, so this was the perfect opportunity to help out! This was an amazing experience for everyone that took part. With our hard work and your involvement and generosity, we all made this wonderful act of giving a reality at Blaydon PS!
Great work promoting healthy eating and living in your community! Thank you Blaydon PS!
Are you interested in getting your school involved in a food drive? Check out the Food Drive Kit.
Would you like to join us in providing healthy food for members of your community? Make a donation!