Tag Archive: poverty

  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. 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.

     

    ACCESS THE REPORT GET THE SNAPSHOT 

     

    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

  5. Diabetes Awareness

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    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.

    For more information about our partnership program, visit: https://www.fhc-chc.com/diabetes

     

  6. Fighting Poverty Together

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    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 povertyWe 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.

    Please make the most generous gift you can today and help make a lasting difference in the lives of our neighbours. I know that together we can make so much more possible in North Toronto.

  7. Leadership in Logistics

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    Leadership in Logistics Program

     

    Here at North York Harvest, on top of distributing food to more than 25,000 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!

    Are you currently receiving Ontario Works and would like to join other Leadership in Logistics students in learning high demand skills and certifications? Contact us to Sign up here!

    For more information, please contact Avril Gray-White at 416.635.7771 x48 or avril@northyorkharvest.com

    Would you like to donate and help this program flourish? Click here!

     

    Sponsored by:

     
  8. Who’s Hungry in Our City?

    Comments Off on Who’s Hungry in Our City? Each year North York Harvest Food Bank teams up with the Daily Bread Food Bank to release the annual “Who’s Hungry” report.  It is a snapshot of food bank use in Toronto. Surveys were conducted on a completely voluntary basis within participating food banks.  33 food banks participated and over 1400 surveys were used to create the report. This report always releases staggering numbers and highlights the problem with food insecurity in our local community and the affect it has on our neighbours in Toronto.  

    Food Bank use in the Inner Suburbs has grown 68% since 2010

    We have been seeing a major increase in visits to the North York Harvest Food Bank.  Residents may be forced to leave the city core to find more affordable rent. Though being able to afford both rent and food is still out of reach for many.

    Who's Hungry

    The growth in the east end has increased dramatically.  Food bank use in this area of the city has increased 30% compared to 4% or less in other parts of the city.  Many of the residents there are newcomers, having fled due to international conflict or natural disasters - most paying around 82% of their income on rent alone.
    “I HAVE COPED BY NOT EATING WELL OR SOMETIMES I DON’T EAT. ACTUALLY I DON’T EAT ABOUT ONCE A WEEK BECAUSE THERE ARE EXPENSES FOR MY ILLNESSES.” ~ SURVEY RESPONDENT  

    Social Assistance just isn’t enough anymore

    The lack of sufficient income brings many people to food banks.  The average monthly income for clients is just $816.50. For a city like Toronto that will not even pay for rent on a one bedroom apartment. 34% of adults have gone hungry at least once every week because they spend all of their income on rent and utilities leaving them struggling to pay for other items such as food, clothing and transit. Sacrificing food can lead to poor mental and physical health.

    Who's Hungry

    “I AM DEPRESSED, HAVE GAINED 50 POUNDS. I HAVE LOST FRIENDS AS I CANNOT AFFORD TO SOCIALIZE OR HAVE TTC FUNDS TO GO TO THEIR HOMES.” ~ SURVEY RESPONDENT  

    Usage of food banks by seniors has skyrocketed

    Within just a year, food bank usage of people ages 65 and up has increased by 26.8%!  It is also quite possible there is a higher need among seniors but many may not be able to attend the food bank due to barriers such as transportation or lack of physical ability.  

    Who's Hungry

    22% of seniors have skipped meals for an entire day because they couldn’t afford to eat – for many of them, it happened almost every month. Many report using their small amounts of money on prescription medications.  Lack of food can worsen any pre-existing health problems seniors may have. Another reason that seniors are accessing the food bank more than ever is that many aren't getting a boost to their income through the Guaranteed Income Supplement they may be entitled to receiving. The reason many are not receiving this benefit could be sheer lack of awareness, the difficulty in applying do to lack of technical support or language barriers.
       

    Read the full report here.