Tag Archive: kids

  1. Soup’s On!

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    Isn’t it amazing what can happen when a community comes together to complete a project and make a difference?

    With your generous support, North York Harvest has become the primary food bank in northern Toronto.  Thanks to you we are able to give nutritious food to over 77 food programs in the city.

    But what if we could take it another step further?  What if we could produce a food product to even out the supply and quality of food received through donations?

    The vision of North York Harvest is a community where all members are able to meet their food needs.  Our mission is to engage our community in meeting the food needs of northern Toronto by providing dignified food assistance, education and long-term food solutions.

    Each day we strive to meet that vision and mission.

    As a community, we have succeeded in kickstarting a new social enterprise thanks to partnerships right here in Toronto.

    Through the generous support of the Metcalf Foundation’s Inclusive Local Economies program, we were able to forge important partnerships with other local organizations working to improve food security in unique ways.  Through these partnerships, we launched three incredible initiatives – we began delivering food to local child care centres, we launched the Leadership In Logistics skills development program, and we piloted community-oriented food production system.  Through the last project, we successfully brought an affordable, nutritious dry soup mix to our local community. 

    With funding secured we were able to team up with FoodShare and Food Starter, to create a dry soup mix that promotes access to affordable, delicious and nutritious food for all.

    To get started, North York Harvest asked our agencies what types of food were most needed and hardest to supply for the clients.

    Within the agencies, there was a need for a hearty, vegetarian soup made with beans and rice that was nutritious but also easy to prepare. For certain dietary needs, it was also important that the soup was low in sodium but still flavourful without being spicy.

    Together through our partnerships, we made a unique Moroccan Lentil Soup. It was sold in FoodShare’s Good Food Boxes and the Grab Some Good pop-up markets operating on various TTC subway platforms. And what is even better is for every soup sold… another soup goes on the shelf for someone using the food bank! 

    It was a hit!

    To prepare the soup mix, we teamed up with the Experiential Learning program at York Humber High School.  The students in this program have special needs and are encouraged to learn life skills through hands on training and real life experience. Each week the students would join Vanessa Yu from caterToronto at Food Starter to prepare several bags of soup that would be given to our community.

    When I met the kids I asked what their favourite part of making the soup was and they seemed to all enjoy sealing up the soup packages the most! They even took soup home to cook and enjoy with their families.


    The kids’ teacher, Carmi, says ‘We were so fortunate to have had the opportunity for some of our students to participate in a meaningful real work experience with the NYHFB.  Students really enjoyed the experience and gained valuable employability skills while increasing their self-esteem.  It was wonderful to watch them learn new skills and progress each week. We all look forward to continuing our partnership with the NYHFB and thank them for all their support over the last few months.’

    We are so excited to move forward with this project and to be able to share this soup with you!

    Thank you to all of you that made this happen:

    The Product – Moroccan-Style Red Lentil Soup

    Combination of red lentils, brown rice and five different spices

    Low in calories, high in fibre and a source of protein

    No added sugar, salt, flavours, colours or preservatives

    Easy to prepare – just add water and simmer for 40 minutes

    Delicious on its own, or scalable to individual dietary needs – a great base for added meats, vegetables, salt or spices to taste

    Sold by FoodShare and distributed to food banks by North York Harvest Food Bank — promotes access to affordable, delicious and nutritious food for all


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    Join the conversation – we’d love to know your thoughts!  Leave a comment below.

  2. Guest Blog: Blaydon Fit Fair

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    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!

    Fit Fair

    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!

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  3. Healthy Eating for Kids


    Healthy eating. It can be tough for most of us adults to stick to a well-rounded, nutritious diet day to day. With kids it can be a nightmare trying to get them to eat well during the best of times.  It can be especially tough now that so much advertising of sugary foods is directly advertised to children.

    So what is a parent or caregiver to do when a child doesn’t want to eat something healthy?  I went to the experts at NYHFB – Moms, Dads, Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents and Caregivers for their top tips!

    Here are some ideas from the North York Harvest team on how to get a child to enjoy nutritious foods.

    Just give it to them. Exposure is key and if they see you eating healthy they will probably eat healthy too. – Kadian, Fundraising Assistant

    Cook it, don’t offer alternate meals like a caterer. Expose them to many different healthy options. – Maria, Donor Relations

    Make a “kids pasta sauce” with pureed vegetables and strained tomatoes.  – Alberto, Corporate Food Donations Lead 

    When in doubt – hide it!  I make muffins with carrots, zucchini, butternut squash, blueberries, apple etc. and I tell the kids I made cupcakes!  I also sneak in sour cream, eggs and nut butters to add protein;-) – Shirah, Corporate Relationship Manager


    For parents, be good role models, give reasonable food options (don’t be short order cooks), trust their stomach, its theirs (kids’ won’t starve themselves for long), involve kids in all parts of food prep starting from gardening to shopping to food prep to cooking where possible. If you fail, try, try, try again! – Irene, Registered Dietician, Evaluation Coordinator

    Deal with picky eaters through buffet style meals (prepare ingredients for kids to make their own owl sandwich as example) – Jane, Receptionist


     My younger son was a picky eater when he was young. We varied his diet as much as he would allow but as parents we tried not to obsess about his diet. He is now 35 years old and a great cook! I think that not obsessing about our son’s diet helped all of us…. but at times, it wasn’t easy. – Lisa, Volunteer Manager

    IMG_6675I always just put the fruit and vegetables in the kids’ lunches with no choice in the matter.  Now though, they favour a lot of fruit and hard vegetables as they have found that cucumbers don’t travel well. The girls also have containers for dips for their veggies.  Another way that we got the girls to eat vegetables is with vegetable filling in canellonis, empanadas and in the sauce on gnocchi. – Leslie, Development Assistant

    Grow food and have them pick it- my daughter eats peas and tomatoes because she used to love picking them. Also, keep things simple – kids often like to see and recognize the individual food items rather than having them all mixed up in a confusing mess. And be flexible in how they get their nutrition – if they like to eat plain tofu but you don’t, set aside some tofu for them before adding it to your stir fry. – Rowena, Director of Food Distribution


    Smoothies are a fun, healthy and filling option to any meal. – Tammy, Assistant Forklift Instructor

    I found that they would not eat healthy if I had pushed them.  But then they started seeing how much energy I have to be able to work and go for a run afterwards, I said it was because of the way I eat and how what you eat affects your body.  They have started eating the same way and are really seeing a difference. – Harold, Manager of Food Distribution

    Involve kids in the simple decision making concerning food, ask them what they want for dinner. If they prepare it, they are more likely to eat it. et play dates involve snack or meal prep/ food activity (bake cookies, make smoothies, mix drinks) – Ella, Manager, Lawrence Heights Community Food Space
    IMG_7816 - Copy

    Use fun shaped and colorful utensils and dishes to prepare and serve food. – May, Accounting

    What are your tried and tested methods for getting kids to eat healthy? We’d love to know! Share them in the comments or join the discussion on Facebook or Twitter!

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  4. Volunteering as a Family


    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

    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!

    Want to try volunteering?  Click here to learn more!

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  5. Hunger and Halloween

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    It’s that time of year again where we all get dressed up in our favourite costumes and scare up some fun.

    One thing that is truly scary though, is hunger in Canada.  Did you know that 13,000 of our neighbours use the food bank every month?  Another scary fact is that 1/3 of the food bank users are children.

    Yet with your help and the support of some fantastic initiatives put together by caring youth in our community, this Halloween can be about more than costumes and candy. This Halloween, join NYH and some wickedly awesome people to make hunger disappear.


    Trick or Eat is truly a great initiative put on by youth in Canada.  During Halloween, thousands of students from across Canada will go door to door collecting food and funds for community organizations (like North York Harvest)!  It’s a great experience for young people to come together as a community and make a difference when it comes to hunger in Canada.

    In preparation for Trick or Eat – Meal Exchange has organized a #TweetUp to discuss hunger in Canada.  We hope you can join us!

    We will be discussing food insecurity in Canada. What people are doing about it and what impact the newly elected federal government could have on the issue.

    Then when you go trick-or-treating on Saturday, don’t forget to ask people to give you a food item along with your candy.

    So come join the #TweetUp on Wednesday October 28th from 2pm-3pm EST using the hashtag #TrickOrEat and following @nyhfb and @mealexchange 

    RSVP on Facebook!



    We Scare Hunger is an initiative to assist with the growing food bank use in Canada.  This Halloween, Instead of just trick or treating, join NYH and Free the Children, to collect non-perishable items for the food bank.  What a great way for your kids to help others while having fun at the same time!

    So sign up today!  All it takes is a group of generous individuals like you to get together and dress up for the cause.  Not only will you get to help over 13,000 people that use NYH food banks every month but you might get some candy too!

    Signing up is easy!  Contact Leslie leslie@northyorkharvest.com , put on your costume and get ready to Trick-or-Treat on Saturday.

    This Halloween, let’s trick or treat for a city without hunger.

  6. Sending Kids To School Hungry Puts Them At Risk

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    When was the last time you got hangry? It might be funny word, but it’s a very real feeling and we’ve all been there. If you’re like me, when you get really hungry, everything else, whether its work, studying or friends, shifts to the back-burner and you turn into an irritable, unfocused and checked out person. Sounds awful right? Well, the good news for you and me, is that this probably doesn’t happen all that often. We usually have access to lots of healthy, filling foods that keep our energy up and moods happy throughout the day. But what if this wasn’t just an occasional feeling and your hunger interfered with your happiness and productivity on a daily basis?

    It probably won’t surprise you to hear that a child needs a good breakfast and lunch each day to stay engaged and focused in school. Studies have shown that students who go to school hungry lack effort and motivation in the classroom, have trouble interacting with their teachers and classmates, and often have poor academic performance. But what if I told you that every day in Canada, nearly 1 in 7 children will go to school hungry? It’s a startling statistic that has short term and long term implications for children in our communities.

    Not only is hunger robbing our children of a great learning and social experience, but it’s also hurting their chances of becoming engaged and productive community members, and seriously jeopardizing their future economic stability.

    We know that when kids eat a full, healthy breakfast they usually have better attendance, are more attentive in the classroom, and have fewer disciplinary problems. So why are so many children going without?

    Unfortunately, for many parents in our community struggling with poverty, going without food is often the solution to making ends meet. In a recent poll, 54% of North York Harvest clients said that they regularly skip meals in order to pay for things like rent, utilities, healthcare and transportation. Putting food on the family table might seem essential, but when you stack it against these other things, you can see how a good breakfast or a healthy lunch often doesn’t make it into the family budget.

    That’s why we need you to ensure that next month every child is starting the day with a good breakfast, and is heading to school with a healthy packed lunch.

    Right now, every $1 you donate to North York Harvest can provide 3 meals to a family in need. That means that a $20 donation could feed 2 children breakfast every day for a month, or a donation of $40 could help pack a school lunch for 3 children for 2 months.

    Your donation will not only provide good food for healthy meals, but will also help to build a community with more academically successful and actively engaged young citizens.

    Let’s send our children back to school with the food that they need to thrive!

    Please donate today.