Tag Archive: north york harvest

  1. Volunteer Spotlight: Meet Müge!

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    Volunteer Spotlight: Meet Müge

    Last year, more than 26,000 volunteer hours were worked at North York Harvest. We are grateful for every person who generously gives their time to

    A woman with long dark hair smiles while sitting at a table and holding a stack of surveys. ensure our community members can get the dignified food support they need. This month, we would like to highlight Müge, one of our newer volunteers who helps out at Lawrence Heights Community Food Space. Whether it’s serving clients or helping to conduct surveys for our annual Who’s Hungry reports, we’re glad she’s part of the team!

    What made you want to volunteer at North York Harvest?

    After moving from Istanbul to Toronto just three months ago, I sought to connect with the community and contribute in a meaningful way. My background in the food industry has always fueled my passion for food and social responsibility.

    In London I was deeply impacted by the initiative to donate unsold pastries to a local charity for the homeless. This experience not only relieved my concerns about waste but also filled me with a sense of purpose, knowing that our efforts helped those in need enjoy quality food. Eager to replicate this positive impact in my new city, I discovered North York harvest and was impressed by its mission and community involvement.

    Have you volunteered elsewhere previously?

    While I do not have extensive experience with regular volunteer commitments, my involvement in humanitarian efforts following the devastating earthquake in Turkey on February 6, 2023, was eye-opening. This involvement was an urgent response to a critical need and helped lay a foundation for my passion for community service.

    Can you describe your experience volunteering at NYH so far?

    My experience volunteering at North York Harvest has been incredibly fulfilling, both personally and for my community.

    Each day, I see firsthand how much the distributed food means to those who receive it. There’s a profound sense of gratitude and relief among the beneficiaries, which deeply resonates with me. Volunteering here has reinforced my passion for helping others. The environment at NYH is one of mutual respect and cooperation; we’re all driven by a shared goal to make a tangible difference in peoples’ lives.

    Every session ends with a sense of accomplishment and a reminder of the positive impact we can have when we work together. Overall, my time at North York Harvest has been an enriching journey that has not only helped me connect with the local community but has also affirmed the value of collective action in addressing food insecurity.

    Four people stand with their arms around one another while smiling at a camera. In the foreground is a table with food items including eggs.

    Interested in volunteering? Check out all of our current volunteer opportunities at  www.northyorkharvest.com/volunteer/

  2. Menstrual Equity Fund

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    Menstrual Equity Fund

    Did you know 1 in 6 Canadians who menstruate experience period poverty?

    A man and woman wearing red North York Harvest hats smile with arms crossed in front of a large stack of menstrual products in a warehouse.

    At North York Harvest, menstrual products are something our clients are always asking about, as far too many have to choose between buying these products or having enough food to eat.

    We are proud to have participated in Food Banks Canada’s Menstrual Equity Fund, which is a collaboration across industry partners, including other food banks, with funding from Women and Gender Equality Canada.

    The pilot aimed to provide products to diverse, low-income communities across the country while raising awareness of menstrual equity and reducing stigma about menstruation.

    Through this pilot, over 48 million period product units were delivered across participating food banks in Canada, reaching more than 2 million individuals.

    Across our network, we have received 2,500 boxes of these products to ensure those who need them most will receive them.

    “A lot of our families right now, when you have two or three members of your household who need these products – it gets incredibly expensive,” says Nisha Joshi, Manager of our Albion Community Food Space.

    Albion serves about 700 clients each month, and Nisha says when people first saw them on the shelf they were really happy to have menstrual products available.

    A woman wearing a red North York Harvest hat stands smiling outside in front of a brightly painted shipping container“Even during times when we had what I’d call high-value household items like toothpaste, toilet paper and other household things people are really looking for, clients were still taking the Maxi pads,” Nisha says.

    “Because it’s something they need and it’s something that’s so incredibly expensive right now.”

    At current prices, a box of menstrual pads is about $8-10. After paying rent and utilities, food bank users in Toronto have a median of $6.67 left per day for all other necessities, according to our 2023 Who’s Hungry report.

    Through this pilot, we were able to ease the cost burden on so many clients in our community so they could use those funds for other necessities.

    Thank you to the following product and distribution vendors, and education and advocacy partners for making this pilot possible: Joni, McKesson Canada, Always Tampax, Edgewell Personal Care, Aisle, Only, Marlow, Oko Creations, Knix, The Period Purse, Moon Time Connections, Free Periods Canada, Monthly Dignity, Project Aim, and Help A Girl Out.

  3. Climbing a mountain to fight food insecurity

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    Climbing a mountain to fight food insecurity

    Would you hike up a mountain 15 times in support of North York Harvest?

    It’s a big ask, but that’s exactly what our new Board Chair Christine Farrugia accomplished recently!

    A woman wearing sunglasses and a hat cheers as she ascends the Sun Valley mountain in Idaho.

    She joined the 29029 Everesting endurance hiking event on June 7-8 to challenge herself and support her community. With her friends, she ascended Sun Valley in Idaho 15 times over 32.5 hours (with breaks for sleep and eating).

    “It was great that I could do this challenge for myself, while also making it about community and giving back to North York Harvest,” she says.

    Christine not only completed this hiking challenge, she also exceeded her fundraising goal for a total of $5,660!

    Since joining the Board of Directors in 2020, Christine has become acutely aware of the growing need in our community.

    “What I’ve been telling my friends and coworkers, because I think a lot of people don’t realize, is 1 in 10 people in Toronto accessed a food bank last year” she says. “The need for food banks is higher than ever.”

    Whether it’s through joining NYH’s Coldest Night of the Year fundraising event, bringing her colleagues in to volunteer or getting her children involved in food drives, Christine has spent her time on the Board raising awareness of food insecurity and encouraging everyone to act.

    Now as Board Chair, Christine says she’s looking forward to helping to shape the future strategy of North York Harvest and help meet the food needs of our community today while working toward long-term solutions to end food insecurity in our city.

    A woman hikes up a grassy mountain among trees and sunshine.

  4. I Choose Hope

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    Help Get Healthy Food to Neighbours like Sandra!

    Did you know that after paying rent and utilities, our clients have about $6.67 left per day for food and all other necessities?

    Click here to read Sandra’s Story of resilience and hope.

    Summer should be a time of enjoying the beautiful weather and taking breaks from work and school to relax and recharge. For some, it’s full of possibilities — from summer camps and vacations, to picnics and BBQs.

    Yet, for thousands of families and individuals in our city, there is no break from the daily stress and worry of food insecurity.

    The situation is dire as the need for food support continues to surge far above pre-pandemic levels.

    At North York Harvest, we’ve seen a 92% increase in client visits since 2019, with a 25% spike last year alone.

    Toronto is facing a poverty crisis with increased inflation, low social-assistance rates and unaffordable housing.

    Every day, people like Sandra are having to turn to a food bank because they can’t make ends meet.


    Sandra’s Story

    Sandra is passionate about her work with children with special needs but with rising costs, her income and benefits are not sufficient to ensure food security in our city.

    “I started coming here a year ago and I am able to meet my needs with the help of North York Harvest. The staff are very kind and friendly, and give their time to meet their community.

    After a long day of work, it makes your day to see a friendly face here at North York Harvest, so I always welcome it.It's so hard to make ends meet and I'm trying hard to make it work. Says Sandra

    With the pandemic and high cost of living, you would not believe how many of my clients I’ve lost. It’s so hard to make ends meet and I’m trying hard to make it work. Sometimes when you struggle, you keep it quiet inside – but things can get better with help.

    If you look, you can see this community faces problems everywhere. On the streets, on the TTC, and it really scared me. But then I thought: do I choose to live in fear? This is my life. Do I choose to accept what life is or be hopeful changes can happen?

    picture of smiling woman with quote "I choose hope" next to herThe pandemic made it hard for a lot of people. I was not working and it was getting to my head. But I said, am I going to allow this to destroy me? No, I’m bigger than that.

    I choose hope.

    Sandra, North York Harvest Client

    Sandra’s story embodies the resilience and determination that drive our work. But we can’t do it alone. 

    Will you be there for people like Sandra?

    The pandemic forced so many in our city into deep food insecurity, including Sandra.

    The urgency of our work has never been more pronounced, and your support has never been more critical

    Your gift today will help provide emergency food access for so many while empowering us to continue fighting the root causes of poverty.

    Our partnership provides vital resources to our community members like Sandra, and enables them to focus on their lives beyond merely surviving.

    But without legislation to address affordable housing, social assistance rates and stagnating wages, the need for our services continues to surge.

    After paying rent and utilities, our clients have about $6.67 left per day for food and all other necessities, according to our 2023 Who’s Hungry report.

    When we join together, we can go beyond short-term support, and continue advocating for much-needed policy changes that will create a more just society, where no one has to rely on a food bank.

    These are the real systemic changes we can achieve with and for our community.

    Please give generously today, so we can continue providing essential food support to our neighbours, while helping to build an equitable community where everyone can thrive.

    Every gift, no matter the amount, makes a difference.  Thank you!


    Collage of North York Harvest staff posing at various food spaces, as as "Together we can build a community where everyone can thrive. Donate Today" is placed beside next to them


    *This is a true story from a client. The images have been changed to protect their privacy.

  5. Who’s Hungry Report 2023

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    Who’s Hungry Report 2023

    In partnership, Daily Bread Food Bank and North York Harvest Food Bank have released the 2023 Who’s Hungry Report, a profile of food insecurity in the City of Toronto.

    The report reveals a grim reality: 1 in 10 people in Toronto are now relying on food banks to make ends meet. Last year that number was 1 in 20.




    During the reporting period, there were 2.53 million visits to food banks in Toronto – a 51% increase over last year and the highest annual increase ever recorded.


    Food insecurity is at crisis levels in Toronto. More households are being pushed into poverty due to four key factors.

    Soaring housing costs

    • After paying rent and utilities, food bank clients have a median of $6.67 left per person, per day for food and all other necessities. This is a significant drop from $8.01 last year

    Food inflation

    • Nearly 1 in 3 (31%) food bank clients went a whole day without eating and more than half (55%) of food bank clients missed a meal to pay for something else



    Stagnating wages

    • Despite inflation rising by 11% since 2021, the median hourly wage ($16) and median weekly hours worked among food bank clients have remained the same during this period

    Insufficient social assistance rates

    • Of the 35% of food bank clients who have a disability, 61% rely on social assistance for income, which leaves them at least $1,000 below the poverty line each month


    There was a 154% increase in the number of individuals who accessed food bank services for the first time last year. Food banks are at their breaking point.

    “The report’s findings, while heartbreaking, are not a surprise. Food banks are being counted on to address the immediate needs and our sector simply cannot solve this crisis on its own,” says Ryan Noble, Executive Director, North York Harvest Food Bank.

    “To truly eradicate hunger, it takes more than food banks raising food and funds. There is an urgent need for collaboration and real action among the government, the private sector and food banks.”


    To affect real change urgently needed in the sector, we are calling for the following:

    • The Government of Canada to rapidly design and implement an adequate and accessible Canada Disability Benefit so that eligible recipients begin receiving the benefit by 2025.
    • The Government of Ontario to commit to a minimum of 300,000 units of permanently affordable and supportive homes in Ontario over the next 10 years, with a minimum of 50,000 in Toronto.
    • The City of Toronto to ensure Toronto’s forthcoming Poverty Reduction Strategy Action Plan provides concrete actions, with funding attached, to prevent food insecurity and promote resiliency among Toronto’s community food programs.


    North York Harvest Food Bank’s vision is a community where all members are able to meet their food needs, and we will continue to strive for that through dignified food assistance, education, advocacy, and long-term food solutions.

    To read the full report and detailed recommendations, click here.

    Who's Hungry Report 2023

  6. Building Strong Community Partnerships

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    Operating a food bank has many unique challenges, many of which has been further amplified because of the COVID-19
    pandemic. “Once COVID hit, North York Harvest was put into a position to change how business was done,” says
    Dianna Stapleton, volunteer and board chair at Weston Area Emergency Support (WAES). Stapleton has worked in the food
    security industry for more than 30 years, with much of her time spent volunteering with WAES which means she understands
    the unique needs of small food banks. At the beginning of the pandemic, WAES would not have been able to keep its doors
    open and support families, and individuals in need had it not been for North York Harvest. “We spent a lot of time with the
    team at North York Harvest trying to figure out how to get food so that we could assist the community,” she says. It was
    through this support that enabled WAES to access alternative avenues for food and donations that would not have been
    possible for a small organization.“Sometimes we get into a routine and may not think there’s a better or different way to do things,” she explains. “Having the other members in North York Harvest’s Agency Network to tap into their expertise, is one of the biggest benefits.” Without the traditional networking opportunities that many other types
    of businesses have, Stapleton and her colleagues at WAES value the regular meetings with other professionals in the food
    security space for the chance to also share experience and celebrate shared success. As we all work towards basic income
    that allows for affordable housing and accessible food many would agree with Stapleton, “Food banks are an emergency
    room in a hospital, you don’t want to use it but you are glad when it is there.” At our core, it’s important for community
    member to not feel a stigma around needing their support.

  7. 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. 
  8. 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.