The North York Harvest Food Bank offers a number of programs and services in addition to our warehousing and distribution operations. Our top priority in running these spaces is to have incredible customer service for anyone that comes to our programs.
Find out more about each of these amazing community spaces and those that we serve in these programs.
The Oriole Food Space, located in the Oriole Community Centre at 2975 Don Mills Road West, is a multi-use community food space designed to build a healthy community, together, through food. It does so by offering a variety of programs, including community kitchens, drop-in food bank hours, food skills workshops, gardening workshops, and farm trips.
Bathurst Finch Community Food Space
The Bathurst-Finch Community Food Bank supports local individuals and families with food assistance and helps to create connections with other neighbourhood resources. The program also works to foster community participation and action around food-related issues and it will regularly host visiting agencies, deliver workshops and run field trips for participants.
Lawrence Heights Community Food Space
The Lawrence Heights Community Food Space is located at 6 Pengarth Ct. The program provides an on site community food bank, community garden, as well as information and referral services to a wide range of community resources and supports, extending beyond food assistance.
Would you like to support these amazing programs?
We’re always looking for donors to sponsor daily food bank activities, community kitchens, community gardens, farm trips and events that mean so much to our community members! Contact Leslie to get involved – 416-635-777 x 21 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit with the incredible volunteers and clients at the Bathurst Finch Community Food Space. Located in a tiny room inside Northview Heights Secondary School, the hustle and bustle of getting prepared for the upcoming drop in made the room buzz. Operating outside of school hours, volunteers make sure the shelves are stocked and fridges full to help community members put food on the table.
Elis, who manages the food space, treats everyone that enters like family. Everyone is in this together and a VIP in the eyes of the caring volunteers.
One of the VIP clients using the food bank is Anna. Anna has been living in Canada for 11 years after leaving Uzbekistan because she was unable to find work.
After working 9 years at local Russian grocery stores, Anna had a child named Nikita and found herself out of work in order to take care of him each day. She had to go on social assistance but unfortunately that wasn’t enough to cover all of her expenses from rent and utilities to food and baby supplies. She was in a bind.
While searching for a way to get baby powder and baby food, Anna came to the Bathurst Finch Community Food Space. When she arrived, the helpful volunteers let her know that not only she could receive baby products, but she was also given food for herself. Anna was amazed by the kindness and generosity that was located right in her neighbourhood. She has been coming to the food bank for the past year now which has helped her stretch her small income.
To get to the food bank, Anna walks with Nikita in his stroller. During the harsh winter months, she was unable to take her stroller through the icy and snowy sidewalks and had no way to access the food bank. Thomas, a volunteer, took the time to drop off food to her home for three months so Anna and Nikita wouldn’t have to go without. “It was amazing that someone was willing to come and help us out when we couldn’t get around,” says Anna, “the food bank volunteers are wonderful!”
After Anna’s father passed away, her mother is still living in Uzbekistan alone. Anna hopes that her mother will be able to join her in Canada so they can be together again. “If she comes to stay with me, she’ll be able to help take care of Nikita so I can go back to school and get a full time job,” says Anna who dreams of becoming a paralegal one day to support her family.
Anna would recommend that anyone who needs help in her neighbourhood visit the Bathurst Finch Community Food Space. “They are so caring and have been so helpful to Nikita and myself. If someone is in need of help they will bring you in and treat you like family.”
At the Bathurst Finch Community Food Space, it is about more than just putting food on the table, it’s about bringing family to that table.
One everyday hero located right in your community is Kayla*. I recently had the opportunity to meet Kayla at the North York Harvest Annual General Meeting back in February. We were in a workshop together and she shared her experiences as a food bank volunteer. I needed to hear more so I could share her story with you.
Kayla has been a volunteer at her local food bank for more than two years dedicating her time six days per week. This is quite incredible as Kayla suffers from many health issues such as a degenerative disk disease in her back, panic attacks, insomnia and is waiting to have knee surgery. This doesn’t stop our hero though; she chooses to work through the pain to make a difference in the lives of her neighbours in need. “If I could have sleepovers here I would!” jokes Kayla.
Kayla’s tasks at the food bank include receiving deliveries, stocking shelves, serving clients and records management. She even packs and delivers food hampers for the “Fresh Start” program that does home deliveries for seniors as well as those unable to physically make it to the food bank.The services she and her other fellow volunteers provide benefit children, families, seniors, those with disabilities and people who can’t leave their home.
A typical food hamper from a NYH food bank
Regardless of Kayla’s health problems, she feels that giving her time at the food bank gives her something else to focus on and a purpose. She strives to make a difference in the lives of her fellow neighbours. This can be done through her daily food bank tasks or even going above and beyond to help someone in need. One particular story of Kayla’s is a time that she was able to assist a client with her job search. The client had needed to know CPR in order to be eligible for a job but could not afford the training. Kayla took the time to research and found a course that was offered for free.
Kayla told me that seeing a smile on the face of someone she has helped is so rewarding in her work.
It absolutely blows me away when I see this kind of dedication from volunteers. And it is throughout the network! Each day volunteers take time out of their day to come in and help their neighbours meet their food needs.
Without your support, we wouldn’t be able to have incredible stories like this to share.From you to me, me to Kayla, Kayla to the client and back to you again – we are really part of something bigger than ourselves. I feel that being able to share these stories truly closes the circle of connectivity in our community
Join Kayla in being a community hero!
Together we all work as a community to make a difference for more than 15,000 people that access these types of programs each month!
2016 has come to a close. It’s been quite the year, hasn’t it? Whether you had a great year or can’t wait for 2017 to start, we can all agree that a lot has happened over the past 365 days.
Here at NYH, there has been a lot of excitement and progress over the past year. We’ve seen many accomplishments and triumphs thanks to our amazing clients, volunteers, donors, staff and supporters! We wouldn’t have had such a terrific year without YOU!
I asked my colleagues in the office, warehouse and on the front lines what their favourite memories of 2016 were and got quite an impressive response!
I considered doing one of those end of year top ten lists but then realized that I can’t decide which is the best one! So here, in no particular order, are some of the great milestones, achievements and moments from 2016!
2016 was BIG for programs, partnerships, feedback and healthy eating!
Of course I couldn’t start off without saying THANK YOU for providing food to people in our community! This year we served more than 15,000 people every month and distributed over 2.3 MILLION lbs. of food!
On top of putting food on the table for our neighbours in need, there were many other exciting things happening this year, including:
Child Care Food Delivery
This year NYH partnered with Learning Enrichment Foundation to bring healthy meals and snacks to over 1400 kids in childcare programs throughout the city.
For 3 months this year, NYH was able to run a community kitchen in the Lawrence Heights neighbourhood. Each week, participants came together to learn cooking skills and enjoy a meal together. Learn more about Mission Kitchen here!
Food Handling Certificates and Meal Programs
The Oriole Food Space ran a series of community kitchen programs in partnership with Flemingdon Health Centre and Working Women Community Centre, particularly aimed at Syrian refugees. We trained a group of almost 20 Arabic speaking newcomers in food handling and food safety, necessary skills in securing employment in the food sector.
This year NYH got into the exciting world of food production! We partnered with FoodShare & Foodstarter to form a unique partnership to produce a soup that would help our community meet their food needs. With the help of students and volunteers, we were able to produce a dry lentil soup that will be sold through FoodShare’s Good Food Boxes & Grab Some Good pop up markets. Each soup sold will put a soup on the food bank shelf for someone hungry in the community.
Toronto Star Santa Hampers
This was first year we were able to distribute a healthier hamper for those receiving the Toronto Star Santa Claus Fund Hampers. Every hamper included perishable items including eggs, cheese, apples and more!
Many of our clients were able to visit community farms in and around the city to see first hand where some of the fresh and nutritious produce that goes to their table comes from.
A comprehensive client survey was conducted in our food banks. Results are being put together now and will be used to guide future programming to ensure clients receive the best service possible!
Logistics Essentials Workforce Development
Using our warehouse space, we have embarked on a training program for low income individuals to learn skills for the workplace. Students will learn technical and employments skills as well as receiving certification for Forklift driving, safe food handling and WHMIS.
Lawrence Heights Community Food Space found a new home at 6 Pengarth Court. LHCFS is also our first community food space to move to the new appointment based model. This allows clients to have an appointment at the food bank to ensure less wait time, giving them better access to services and supports, and a personal touch.
Our frontline staff have had extensive training over the past year in non-violent conflict resolution, working in communities that experience gun violence, trauma informed care, food handlers certificates, developing a community of practice, program development, evaluation and implementation
This year we were honoured with the Advocacy Award from the Ontario Association of Food Banks recognizing our efforts towards addressing hunger in the community.
This year we celebrated our donors at Taylor’s Landing. It was a great opportunity to connect with some amazing people that are helping us provide our services in the community.
“We take a lot of things for granted,” Lynne, long-time donor of the food bank shares. “Basic things like clothes, blankets and especially food.” This is one of the reasons that drew Lynne to the food bank. This is her story.
For the longest time we didn’t have a refrigerator. I would take my toy buggy with me and walk with my mom to the grocery store every day. Food was scarce but I don’t remember going super hungry. We lived by the waterfront and there were always men asking my grandparents if we had work for them. “We share what we have,” was my grandma’s philosophy. She would always invite them in and even when there was no work, she would make them some lunch before they left. Kids were always coming to our house for lunch. Food and community were a big part of our lives. That was a long time ago. But even today food and community are still an important part of my life.
I eventually went on to study home economics and early child education at university. Eventually I started working in the inner city supporting moms with prenatal care and nutrition. There are a lot of families that were financially compromised and we spent a lot of time focusing on the importance of healthy food – where to get it, how to make it economically and what they could use to make healthy meals without spending too much. But it wasn’t only about food. After all, community is a big part of the equation. After my first husband passed away I was a single mom trying to work, take care of my children and make ends meet.
I often would share food with my neighbours who were also struggling, often because life was hard and lonely and sharing food brought us together and brought so much joy.
It’s no surprise that the same focus on sharing what you have, food and community was passed from my grandparents through my family to my children. When our kids were growing up, food and giving was a part of the family culture. We tried to eat dinner together as much as we could and during the holidays we would come together to make Christmas hampers. It was a family tradition. Even now, though my kids are older we still come together, four generations of family and they do it every year.
I started to support the food bank because it simply made sense. There are so many families out there without enough food to eat.
I may not be able to give to all of them directly but I can partner with an organization that is working to do that. You don’t have to be wealthy, you just have to share what you have. I tell my kids that all the time. Because none of us exist on our own.
We are part of something bigger, bigger than just ourselves and giving is a part of that, a part of our lives.
And that is exactly what North York Harvest Food Bank, with the generous support of Lynne and donors just like her are doing. Like the philosophy that Lynne’s grandparents lived by whatever we have we share. Join Lynne and the other amazing NYH supporters to ensure that no family in Toronto goes hungry this fall.
Sometimes we don’t realize how much our actions make a difference to people we’ve never even met. But I want to take the time to share with you how your actions of supporting your local food bank have changed lives and come full circle.
Mr. and Mrs. Perez moved here with their family over a year ago fleeing a very difficult situation back home. When they arrived, they found themselves needing to go to the food bank to help them get back on their feet.
Not long ago I had a chat with them as they were spending time volunteering with us. They told me that the reason they now volunteer in the food bank is because they want to pay it forward.
“I want others to know that someone out there cares for them. Coming from the situation in our past – it can be hard to understand that there are people who actually care.”
When the Perez family came to Canada, they struggled to find jobs because they didn’t speak English – which in turn meant they struggled to put food on the table for their children. “It wasn’t until we came to the food bank that we realized people really cared, from volunteers, to staff and donors – everyone wants to make sure that no one goes hungry. In a country like Canada, no one should have to.” Mr. Perez told me.
Unfortunately, the number of food bank users in our city keeps growing. According to the latest Who’s Hungry report, there were over 900,000 visits to Toronto food banks last year. That is a 48% increase in the suburbs since 2008.
Mrs. Perez told me that on their first visit to the food bank she was surprised at the kind of options they had, “I was able to find ingredients to make recipes that I used to make for my family back home. It really helped my children as a lot of this new Canadian food was strange to them”. Personally when I see the kind of donations that come into the food bank, I am also surprised by the vast variety and selection that sometimes gets donated. I think it is great that just because a person needs to use the food bank they still are able to have a choice as to what goes into their food hamper, just as they would if going to a grocery store. It’s also important that we have choice to accommodate dietary restrictions and allergies.
It’s great know that Perez family have adjusted to Canada and glad to be a part of our community. It can be really hard picking up and changing your life. There are many worries that one can have in a situation like that – whether or not you’ll be able to have a meal shouldn’t have to be one of them.
These days Mr. Perez works at a full time job and speaks English very well. His kids go off to school each day having had a healthy breakfast and he just wants the same for people that are now where he was. Each week the Perez family go to the food bank they used to use but now they do to stock shelves and help others pick out groceries to feed their own families.
Mr. Perez loves giving back to his local food bank, “I am very grateful that I can give back to people that are just like I once was; worrying about whether their children are going to have something to eat that day or not. If not for the food bank, I might still be worrying.”
More than 16,000 people will use a food bank in your community this month. Because of you they will be able to leave knowing that their kids (and themselves) will not have to go without a nutritious meal to help them get back on their feet.
Please consider making a generous donation or volunteering to help our new neighbours get back on their feet.
I wasn’t always a member of your community. My family came here over 20 years ago for a fresh start and I was met with open arms by wonderful families that I now consider to be my family.
As new arrivals to Canada, we didn’t have the means to celebrate a Thanksgiving meal – but we were invited to share the holiday with a wonderful family that had us over to their home. And that really meant a lot.
They told us that the true meaning of the holiday is being grateful sharing what we have – they even told us more about our new country and the incredible fresh start and adventure we are about to enjoy. Thanks to their hospitality – I also had my first taste of pumpkin pie and it remains one of my favourite desserts up until this day!
These days I volunteer at a local community center that supports newcomers just like I once was.People can go there for food, ESL classes, cooking lessons and job placement support. I get to witness firsthand how generosity from people just like you go a long way to helping people build a new life here in Canada.
When I think about that special gift we received on our first Thanksgiving – this time of year really gets me in the mood to help people that are struggling to get back onto their feet. People right in our community.
This year I will be working with my community center, their staff, volunteers and even families who we’ve helped in the past and are now coming back to pay it forward, to ensure families who are struggling in the neighbourhood have a hot and festive meal on Thanksgiving and have enough food at home all month long.
And I want to invite you to join me and do the same.
Let’s Leave Hunger Behind and make this a Thanksgiving to remember. So that 20 years from now, when new families share their stories, they, like I do, will remember with joyfulness, their first fall in Canada.
We can’t do it without you though!
Join us for the 2016 Fall Food Drive to make this Thanksgiving and the rest of the fall a special time everyone can be grateful for!
There are many ways you can join me and the thousands of amazing people in our community working to make a difference!
Donate – For every $1 you donate, you provide 3 meals to a person that is hungry!
Volunteer – There are many great opportunities with the Fall Food Drive – join the NYH truck drivers to pick up and deliver food or come out to one of the many great events planned to raise food for our neighbours!
Run a Food & Funds Drive – This is a fun way to work together as a team with friends, family, classmates, coworkers and anyone else that would like to make a difference!
Join the Public Sort –Sort food at the NYH warehouse on October 9 for a great way to spend Thanksgiving weekend with your family while ensuring food is sorted and ready to be delivered to families in need!
Get Social! – Use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media to spread the news about the food drive with these great shareables!
During this season of Thanksgiving, join me in showing our neighbours that we care about them.
What is it that makes you realize fall is finally here?
Is it the coolness in the air? The leaves changing colours? Everything is now pumpkin spice flavoured?
For me and my daughters, Emma & Sophia, fall kicks off each year by participating in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.This year will be our 8th year participating in the marathon and our 4th year on Team North York Harvest. The route is great and the scenery around the city is absolutely gorgeous.
It’s a real Toronto community event complete with bands, entertainment, cheerleaders and people in costumes. We’ve been known to have a carrot joining our team for many years now! It’s great for first time marathoners but also the advanced athlete who wants to qualify for the upcoming Boston Marathon.Anyone that enters gets a t-shirt and a great finisher’s medal that comes with complete bragging rights.
The first year I entered, I tried running with my daughter Sophia on my back. She was only two at the time and let’s just say my run time wasn’t going to get me on the Olympic team. But that doesn’t matter. The important part is getting together with my family and fellow community members to reach a common goal.
And that goal is all about providing healthy meals for our neighbours that are hungry.Each year Team North York Harvest raises money so that families will be able to access the food they need. Since the team has been active, over $200,000 has been raised.
That’s 600,000 meals for children, parents and grandparents living right here in Toronto!
Even my girls have taken the initiative to raise money for the cause with their friends at school. This year they plan to raise enough funds for 300 meals. It really warms my heart to see how caring and thoughtful my children have grown to be. And a lot of that attitude came from taking part in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.