Here at North York Harvest, on top of distributing food to more than 15,000 people each month, we are dedicated to long term solutions to poverty and creating sustainable livelihoods.
That’s why 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.
Together we are able to provide skills development and experience-based learning right here in the NYH warehouse!
Students like Tammy are able to gain valuable technical skills and certifications in our operating environment – after all, we are the food distribution hub for more than 77 food programs in the city.
“Being a busy mom, I felt the program benefited me by giving me hands on work experience and training that was essential in coming back into the workforce.” – Tammy.
This program is designed to propel graduates into careers in the warehousing and logistics sector. In fact, after Tammy graduated she became an instructor in the program paying it forward!
Recently we have just had the honour of graduating another 10 students of the program. This latest group of students is already off to having successful careers in the field with half of them already gaining employment while the others have exciting job interviews lined up!
“I learned that if I stick with anything I can finish it! Everyone here is so supportive!” says Mark, one of the recent graduates.
Saheed, another graduate also received some local fame, appearing in an article for the Toronto Star talking about how the program has given him a new opportunity in life.
The Leadership in Logistics program is one of the many ways that North York Harvest is working to make a difference in the lives of our community members!
We’re currently looking for mentors and employers to get involved in helping those seeking meaningful employment through this incredible program! Please contact Rowena Power at 416-635-7771 x 30 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Are you currently receiving Ontario Works and would like to join other Leadership in Logistics students in learning high demand skills and certifications? Sign up here!
Would you like to donate and help this program flourish? Click here!
As we get back into our day to day routines after the holidays, I start thinking about the year that has passed as well as what the new year will offer.
I am pleased to share with you my highlights of the year as well as the plan for the upcoming months – there is a lot to look forward to and I would love for you to get involved in any way you can!
Some of my favourite highlights of 2016 really represented the mission of NYH, which includes providing dignified food assistance, education and long-term food solutions.
A New Home for Lawrence Heights Community Food Space
Lawrence Heights Community Food Space moved into 6 Pengarth Court. This was truly a community-led initiative: a team from Bombardier Aerospace’s nearby facility came in to freshen the place up with some new paint, which made it really feel like a home. We also strengthened our relationships with local Lawrence Heights community agencies as we were back in the neighbourhood. The I’m Lawrence program helped us out with installing ramps and railings to aid with our accessibility issues.
We have been more involved with LH related community programming, attending community safety meetings, LHION meetings and forums and bringing the perspective of food security to the community agency table.
The waiting space in the new site is not as large as it was in our previous location, so we created an appointment system to better manage the flow of clients. This allows more dignified food access for everyone, allowing them a private time to use the food bank, one on one time with volunteers and staff as well as safety from the elements as they will not need to wait outside.
A Growing Partnership
Since moving into 116 Industry Street, the Learning Enrichment Foundation and North York Harvest have been committed to strengthening our communities through food and education.
Last year not just one, but two major programs came out of the partnership.
Child Care Food Delivery
As a food bank, NYH transports food to those in need throughout the community. It was only a natural step to join LEF in providing healthy meals to children in childcare. Each day LEF prepares meals and snacks for children from low income families that are in daycare while their parents go to work – and NYH makes sure that the meals reach their destination. Over 1,400 children are served daily through this program.
Logistics Essentials Program
Building on our mission to deliver long-term solutions to combat poverty, we put in place a new program to provide technical training and personal development to low income individuals. The course runs for 13 weeks in our warehouse serving the immediate needs of food bank clients through training. Each year 48 people will receive skills and certifications all geared towards securing stable employment upon completion of the course. Stay tuned to hear about the first graduating group of students!
Moving forward with LEF, we will continue working together to lift individuals out of poverty in the city.
In response to the growing number of individuals that need to use a food bank in our city, we embarked on a new project – to ensure we have a supply of quality food for people that are in need. After consulting with our agencies and clients on their specific food needs, we partnered with Foodshare and Foodstarter, and created a new product – a delicious Moroccan-Style Lentil Soup. This soup is suitable for anyone as it is vegetarian, high in fibre and protein as well as low in calories with no added sugars, salts, flavours, colours or preservatives.
Together with the help of students and volunteers, we were able to produce a first run of the soup that will be sold by FoodShare. For every soup sold, another will be provided to the food bank, ensuring everyone will have access to a healthy, easy to prepare and delicious meal.
Currently we are looking to partner with a school in order to use the soup production and sale process as part of an educational program. This soup program is community oriented, sustainable and provides a long term food solution to the public.
Letting People Be Heard
In 2015 the Toronto Poverty Reduction Strategy was passed during a city council meeting. The goal of the strategy is to address immediate needs such as housing, transportation and food insecurity. I was able to attend a meeting regarding the strategy with NYH Board Chair, Kerry Mitchell to share the perspective of our clients with the mayor and city council. While we work very hard to advocate on behalf of our clients, we also want to establish processes and forums for clients to advocate on their own behalf and share their stories with our city’s decision makers.
This year we are putting together a Speaker’s Bureau within the North York Harvest Food Bank network. This will enable individuals that are experiencing poverty or living in poverty and using programs such as food banks to have their voice be heard as well as amplify the collective voice of our clients. We hope that this program will educate our community and provide more insight into the lives of those we serve.
I am truly looking forward to what we have in store for the upcoming year!
What most interests you about these subjects? Is there something else that we’re missing? Want to get involved? Let YOUR voice be heard and let me know by dropping me an email at email@example.com
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Toronto is our home town. If you’re like me, whenever you speak with people from outside the city, it can be hard not to get swept up in the positives. We love the city’s history, cultural vibrancy and diversity. Some days I wonder if I could ever live anywhere else. However, we’ve probably romanticized our city. Toronto has a darker side, serious problems that are too easy to ignore.
Last week you might have notice that the city of Toronto released TO Prosperity, a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy. In the introduction, Deputy Mayor Pam Mcconnell wrote openly about how, despite Toronto’s reputation as a prosperous city and a centre of economic growth, our poverty problem has become impossible to ignore. 1/4 of Toronto’s children live in poverty. So do 46% of new comers to Canada, 33% of racialized groups, and 30% of people with disabilities.
“This inequality is simply unacceptable. Toronto can do better”, wrote Mcconnell.
As the primary food bank for northern Toronto, we whole heartedly agree with this statement. I know you do too! Everyday at North York Harvest we witness the impact of poverty in our communities, and strategize about how, together, we can continue to make improvements. We’re lucky to know that we can rely on your donations to help put food on our neighbour’s tables, but at the same time, we know that for things to truly get better we need a serious commitment from our city’s government to address the growing poverty in our communities. TO Prosperity is a step in the right direction.
As you probably know, a major contributor to the city’s poverty is lack of access to affordable and healthy food. It’s no secret that a plentiful and nutritious diet leads to healthier kids, more productive adults, and stronger communities. Yet in many of the city’s neighbourhoods, good food is very hard to come by. Since 2008 Toronto’s inner suburbs have seen a 38% increase in food bank visits, with over 1 million visits a year. It’s an alarming number, and one that might have you asking, ‘In a wealthy city like Toronto, with so much food available, why are so many people going without?’
Well, the problem isn’t so much that the food isn’t there, but that it’s unavailable to so many of our neighbours. Farmer’s markets, grocery stores and restaurants are all abundant in TO, but their prices have become so high that they exclude a large part of the city’s community members. Markets and sources of fresh produce also tend to avoid low income neighbourhoods, leading to large urban areas referred to as “food deserts”. To sum it up, the problem isn’t a lack of food, but a lack of income.
To combat this, the committee has put forward some recommendations and actions aimed at bringing healthy and affordable food into Toronto’s less prosperous neighbourhoods. If you haven’t had a chance to look through them yet, take a look, and then head on to Twitter – Do you agree? Is it enough? What else can we do?
Some of the key actions that stuck out to us will seek to:
“Develop mechanisms that make it easy and cost-effective for community agencies and schools to procure healthy food.” – 11.1
“Encourage local markets in public spaces, and open civic land and spaces to host food markets.” – 11.4
“Support mechanisms to increase student nutrition programs in collaboration with school boards.” – 11.6
“Remove barriers (zoning, licensing, planning) to maximize urban agriculture and food production on public and private space and land.” – 12.1
“Create clear policies that support the 30 development of community kitchens, outdoor bake ovens, community cooking classes and other food-oriented activities that support social cohesion and food access, and create economic opportunities.” – 12.3
In particular, action 10.3 – “Support food banks to improve the quality of their food stock, provide culturally specific food, and increase access and eligibility to food for people in need”, really struck a chord with our team.
Your generous donations keep food in our neighbour’s cupboards stocked, but as the demand continues to grow, we’re constantly striving to improve the quality of our services, by providing a greater quantity of fresh and culturally specific food options. We recently invested in a new fridge triple the size our old one, and a freezer double the size of our old one, allowing us to accept and distribute more of your fresh produce and food donations. This means that, this month, a young child gets to bring nutritious lunch to camp, or a new Canadian family will get to enjoy seasonal local produce around the dinner table.