Guest Blog by Ryan Noble, Executive Director
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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Here’s to a food friendly 2017!