Tag Archive: volunteering

  1. “I wanted to make sure others have the same chance I did.” – How Theresa Pays it Forward

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    Asking for help is hard.

    When Theresa visited our Lawrence Heights Community Food Space for the first time, her hands were shaking. “I was so embarrassed to have to ask for food,” she remembers. The single mother was desperately in need of help to put food on her table, but we often hear, Theresa felt ashamed of her situation.

    Theresa’s situation, however, is not unlike the ones many others face in Toronto. “I was new to the city. I came here because I thought I’d be able to find work. But it was harder than I expected.” Because of the generosity of our community, Theresa was greeted warmly by Julie, our Food Bank Manager.

    She walked away with the food she needed and a new sense of belonging. Just like 1 in 3 of our clients, Theresa wanted to “pay it forward”. Even though she was in a time of personal crisis, she was determined to give back so others could receive the same help she had.  She became a volunteer to create a safe, friendly space for her neighbours who were also struggling.

    “I told Julie to call me whenever she needed help – day or night. I wanted to make sure others have the same chance I did. I know this community needs help, so I’m helping in the way I can,” Theresa insists with a shy smile.

    Stories like Theresa’s happen at North York Harvest agencies every day. Emergency food assistance makes life a little better and restores a sense of purpose and hope. People come in for help and find a community.

    Your support makes sure that providing emergency food support is just the beginning of our relationship with people like Theresa. And just like you, Theresa is committed to building a healthier Northern Toronto.   

    Will you join Theresa and give what you can to make sure our community members in need can find healthy food across Northern Toronto?

    Click here to make a financial donation.

  2. Community Food Spaces

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    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.

    Learn more about Oriole Food Space

    Learn more about Bathurst Finch Community Food Bank

    Learn more about Lawrence Heights Community Food Space

    Oriole Food Space

    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 / leslie@northyorkharvest.com

     

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  3. Basic Income Basics

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    There has been quite a lot of talk about basic income lately in the news.  A basic income is a guarantee to Canadian families and individuals that they will be able to meet a minimum income level regardless of employment status.

    This could mean big things for the hundreds of thousands of people in Toronto that struggle to make ends meet to pay for everyday needs such as rent, utilities, transit and food.

    This has come up for a lot of debate among Canadians. It also raises a lot of questions about the impact on our communities and economy. In an effort to answer some of the most asked questions about basic income,  I spoke with Elaine Power, co-founder of the Kingston Action Group for Basic Income Guarantee

     


    How do you think basic income will benefit the community?

    If we had a basic income program that was available to all who needed it and a basic income program that effectively eliminated poverty, there could be dramatic benefits to the community. The research suggests that public health would improve and health care costs would drop. Eliminating poverty means that kids would have a better start in life, do better in school and have fairer chances in life, and this could also decrease crime rates over time.

    If we take away the desperate need for people to find any kind of work that they can, it could liberate people to engage their passion and contribute to their communities through volunteer work and the arts, or to take risks, e.g., with a small business, that they wouldn’t otherwise do. When people have basic economic security, it enables them to dare to do new & different things.

    I believe that a basic income program will help build social solidarity, to rebuild a sense of the collective, that we are part of neighbourhoods and communities.

    How will this impact the economy & the taxpayer?

    People who live in poverty spend their money on basic necessities, like food, shelter, clothing, activities for their kids. They won’t be taking their money out of the country for expensive vacations. That will have an economic multiplier effect, and could make a profound impact in smaller, more rural communities that are struggling. 

    Research shows that poverty has a high economic cost and that poverty reduction has a big return on investment. A report by the Ontario Association of Food Banks suggested “With the huge savings that could be achieved over time by reducing poverty and its burdensome social costs, the province could very likely pay for the need mix of policies without asking taxpayers for anything more.”  The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has calculated that every dollar invested in reducing poverty would result in about a $2 return on investment. In other words, poverty reduction is at worst cost-neutral and likely would save money over time.

    Do you feel as though there could be any negatives/drawbacks that come from having a basic income?

    Well, the negatives or drawbacks depend on the type of basic income program that would get implemented. There are different models. Some on the political right would like to see the implementation of a basic income in order to reduce other government supports and services, like public housing. This would not improve the lives of people living in poverty or likely reduce poverty overall, because people would have to pay more of their income for what are now public services. We would not see the types of economic savings I mentioned above in that case.

    I am a proponent of a progressive basic income that is part of rebuilding the social safety net, would improve the lives of people living in poverty and would result in dramatic reductions – or the virtual elimination – of poverty.

    How will this affect the food bank and food bank users?

    The best sign of the effectiveness of basic income or any poverty reduction/elimination strategy would be that food banks are able to close up because of lack of demand. Those who founded food banks back in the 1980’s thought that food banks were an “emergency” response to an economic downturn and that they would close once the economy improved. I have a report from a meeting of food banks in Toronto and area from 1991 that wrestles with the question of when and how Toronto food banks might close. An effective basic income would allow food bank users to acquire food like everyone else. They still might choose to attend hot meal programs, food skills programs, community gardens and community kitchens – but there will be more freedom and choice to do that, not a sense of dire need.

    Is the proposed amount of $16,989 enough to get by for individuals?

    Like social assistance, the problem with a fixed amount is that the cost of living varies quite a lot across the province – from Toronto to Windsor to northern Ontario. As I understand it, the rationale for making it less than the LICO ( low income cut-offs) or the LIM ( Low Income Measure) is that people will get other federal income transfers, like the GST credit. But I suppose part of the idea of the pilot is to assess if the amount is enough.

    Others, like Guy Caron, who is a candidate in the federal NDP leadership race, has proposed a basic income that would be set using the Low Income Cut-off or LICO which is adjusted for city and family size.

    What do you say about the idea from opposers that people will go on BI just to “stay home and be lazy”?

    This is probably the most common oppositional response to the idea!!

    If you ask people if they (personally) would just stay home, everyone says “of course not!.” The reality is that about 70% of people who live in poverty are working, which speaks to the inadequacy of minimum wages.

    The reality is that any basic income, whether the Ontario pilot amount or an amount tied to the LICO, is not luxurious. Most people will want to seek paid employment to supplement their incomes. And most people work for reasons other than money.

    And the other issue that this objection is based on is that the only work that is valuable is paid employment. We do all sorts of unpaid, unrecognized, invisible work at home and in our communities, including all the volunteer work that gets done for and at food banks. This is valuable and important work. What basic income will help us do is to decide where to put our time and energies in activities that are meaningful and important for us and for our communities. Some people may “stay home and be lazy” for a little while. Most people would not do that for very long – and if they do, perhaps they need other services to help them find meaningful activity.

    The benefits of a progressive and effective basic income for those living in poverty and for our communities overshadow the objection that a small percentage of people might “stay home and be lazy.”


    The idea of a basic income is a very exciting move forward in our communities. To learn more about the basic income pilot project, visit https://www.ontario.ca/page/ontario-basic-income-pilot

    More Resources:

    Kingston Action Group for Basic Income Guarantee

    Basic Income Initiative

    Basic Income Canada Network

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  4. Getting Social with Volunteering

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    Did you know that volunteering can be a great way to get out into the community and meet new friends?

    Gord and Bonnie have been dedicated volunteers with North York Harvest since 2015.  Every week they join us in the warehouse to sort food and help new volunteers get the hang of things.  Without them we wouldn’t be able to send out quality products to the food bank network.  You see, a lot of donations come into the warehouse and they need to be sorted for quality and into categories to ensure that food banks get what they need to better serve our community.  This means that dented cans, expired food and other unwanted items don’t make it out the door.

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    When we have new volunteers join us (such as corporate teams or community groups) Gord and Bonnie are there to share their knowledge which enhances the experience for others.  But they aren’t the only ones teaching people, “Every day is a new learning experience,” says Gord, “So many foods come through here that I have never heard of – and I used to work in the grocery business!  People I sort with teach me about the food and how to use it in new recipes.”

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    Bonnie and Gord both agree about their favourite part of volunteering at the food bank – meeting people from different walks of life.  “I enjoy meeting people from corporations, schools, seniors’ programs, special needs program and more! Volunteering is a great way to be social!” says Bonnie.

    There are many benefits to becoming a volunteer in your community!  Not only are you helping other people but you will also meet new people, learn new things, keep fit and build confidence. 

    Want to join Gord, Bonnie and hundreds of other people that make a difference in our community?  Learn more about the many volunteer experiences that we have available here!

    What else is amazing about volunteering? Check out 8 Great Reasons to Volunteer!

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  5. Volunteering as a Family

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    What do you usually do on Family Day?  The holiday is not even a decade old but has already given millions of Canadians an extra day off during the year to take a break and enjoy time with family.

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    Kathy, Matthew and Christian volunteer regularly at the food bank as a family activity.  We love having them around giving support and helping us out with corporate and community sort groups.

    When I think of Family Day, I think about families doing something special together.  And The Leeder-Chiarottos demonstrate that each day! 

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    Matthew and Christian took some time to answer questions I had just in time for the upcoming holiday.

    Tell us about yourselves

    We are two brothers, 10 and 12 years old.  We live in North York with our mom, dad and our two precious cats Sam and Dean.

    How long have you been volunteering?

    We have been volunteering with the North York Harvest Food Bank for about a year and a half now.

    Why did you decide to volunteer as a family?

    We decided to volunteer as a family because we feel pretty lucky for everything that we have.  My mom is big on helping others so she wanted us to learn to do the same.  There is a lot of negative in the world and we would like to be the positive.

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    Why choose to volunteer with the food bank?

    When you volunteer you need to choose wisely about how you will spend your time.  There are not a lot of volunteer opportunities for kids our age that are interesting or that you can get promoted for doing good work. 

    My mom looked at a bunch of different things for us to do together and when she spoke to Lisa at North York Harvest, she was really positive about us coming in. We love to cook as a family and volunteering with food seemed like a good fit.  

    Since joining the team, we have had the chance to sort food, help with corporate groups as well as promote the food bank to the community.  We have learned a lot about the problems people face putting good food on their tables at home.

    Matthew & Christian with MPP Laura Albanese

    Matthew & Christian with MPP Laura Albanese

    What is your favourite part about volunteering as a family?

    We like volunteering together because we talk and have fun.   We meet interesting people and learn from everyone we connect with.  After we sort food together or work with a corporate group we feel great.  You know that you are making a difference with your family and that’s rewarding.

    “You know that you are making a difference with your family and that’s rewarding”

    What do you do outside of volunteering?

    Outside of volunteering we play a lot of hockey in the winter and golf and tennis in the summer.  We hang out with our friends and travel with our parents.

    What do you tell your friends about your volunteering experience?

    I tell them it is a great experience.  Volunteering has changed my life and how I view things.  I see that people are less fortunate than I am and I want to help people more. – Christian

    The atmosphere at the food bank is great.  Everyone is very friendly.  Our friends have all asked us if they could come to sort food and help out.  When we come to the food bank we don’t see the people who donate and we don’t see the clients that receive the food but we see all the people that come together in the middle to make it happen.  Working with all these people, with their own reasons for volunteering, is so fascinating, uplifting and rewarding.  Who knew that checking expiry dates, sorting food, making boxes, weighing all the donations could bring so many people together. – Matthew

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    Any memorable stories you’d like to share?

    Last Christmas we were asked if we could help deliver some Christmas presents for one of the Food Bank programs.  We all went out over the weekend to make sure that the kids received their gifts.  All the kids were so happy to receive something special for themselves.  It was moving because we were helping people get their Christmas.  We were happy for our own Christmas because we were part of this experience.

    One of the corporate groups we worked with was so cool that they decided to do a mannequin challenge during the food sorting.  We had been in a flash mob before but never a mannequin challenge.  Once everyone stopped laughing we all froze into position while they filmed.  They put it to music and posted it on YouTube.  

    What would you say to someone that was thinking of becoming a volunteer?

    Definitely don’t just think about volunteering.  Volunteer!  Even if you are a kid you can make a difference.

    What are your family day plans?

    We will make breakfast for our parents because we make wicked pancakes.  We’ll probably play a few games.  Watch an episode of the X Files.  Chill with our cats.  Make dinner together in a family master chef challenge


    It’s so great hearing about different volunteer experiences!  It truly enriches the lives of not only the person benefiting from the service, but also the volunteers themselves.

    Thank you so much to Kathy, Matthew and Christian for making a huge difference in the warehouse and in the community!

    Want to try volunteering?  Click here to learn more!

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  6. Hunger Doesn’t Hibernate

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    Hunger doesn’t hibernate and neither did you during the 2016/2017 Winter Food Drive!  Because of your INCREDIBLE support, funds, volunteer time and enthusiasm we raised OVER $250,000 & 250,000 lbs. of food!  

    This means that we can provide 750,000 meals to people that are in need of food this winter.  THANK YOU!

    There were more than 200 food drives in our great city run by families, volunteers, businesses, schools, faith groups, community groups and more. 

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    Some highlights of the Winter Food Drive include:

    Incredible Employee Engagement

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    The TRCA has been a community partner of NYH for a number of years but recently we have done more projects and programs together.  All of the TRCA staff are involved in food and fun fund events to support of the work of NYH!  

    They’ve collected food, held raffles and draws, hosted food events and had a great time doing it!

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    During the winter food drive, the TRCA came in to sort food and also held their annual holiday party in support of providing 5,525 meals this winter to families in our communities.

    Foods from Around the World

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    Delarie Murphy, Mutsa A Mawora-Lewis and Sarkis Kurkjian are international students from Citi College .  They joined the Winter Food Drive and proved it doesn’t take many people to make a BIG impact.  Hailing from Syria, Jamaica & Trinidad; these incredible students raised 530 lbs. of food!  Not only that but they knew that many people appreciate food that is familiar when visiting the food bank – so they made sure to donate food they enjoy from back home.  Food bank users come from all backgrounds and it is greatly appreciated when they feel comfortable with the food they feed their families.

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    The Redtastic team is a group of volunteers that dedicate their time to support Kadian when she runs hundreds of sort groups throughout the year. Jane, Janet, Gord, Sari, Bonnie, Linda, Haley, Steve, Enzo, Laura and Will are always reliable and make a big difference in the warehouse. During the winter food drive they were extremely helpful by providing guidance and support to not only Kadian but to new volunteers. Even when a group isn’t scheduled they will make time to come sort during the slot available. They are incredibly dedicated and we couldn’t sort through all of the donations that make it on the food bank shelves without them!
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    Biggest Food Drive

    We had a tie this year for the largest food drive.  Schools around the city are huge contributors to the food drives and this year Ledbury Park PS Faywood ABC both raised an incredible 4500 lbs. of food EACH! That will provide 13,500 meals to the community!

    Families Feeding Families

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    Michael Bros. Excavating has been a donor to NYH for many years.  A company run by siblings Peter, Tullio and Rosemary; they care deeply about giving back to their community.

    This year they encouraged employees, vendors and contractors to join them in providing food for families in need.  They raised an incredible 2,714 lbs. of food and came by the office 4 times to drop off their donations.

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    “We are very proud of our employees and brokers and value everyone’s involvement and cooperation. We will definitely encourage our group to once again, collect and drop off non-perishable food in the spring for our Easter Drive.” says Rosemary.

    Thank you so much to everyone that put their time, effort, funds and support into making this the best food drive yet!

    Thousands of people right in your community are able to access the food they need to get by this winter because of YOU! Thank you!

    We are amazed as always by the tremendous support we received during the winter food drive and look forward to sharing a food friendly 2017 with you!

     

  7. Looking Back at 2016

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    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.

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    Mission Kitchen

    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.

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    Soup Production

    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.

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    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!

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    Farm Fresh

    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.

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    Client Surveys

    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.

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    Lawrence Heights

    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.

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    Staff Training

    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

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    Advocacy Award

    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.

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    Donor Recognition

    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.

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     Don’t miss the 2016 wrap up video!

    There are so many other great memories from 2016 and this was only just a few.

    Do you have any highlights of the year? We’d love to know!  Leave your memories in the comment section to share your views!

    Here’s to an even more amazing 2017 helping our community meet their food needs!

     

     





  8. You Make It Happen!

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    This post is all about YOU and how absolutely GRATEFUL we are to have you in the North York Harvest family!

    YOU make it possible to provide food for your neighbours that would otherwise go hungry.

    YOU come out to volunteer, donate funds, show support and be a part of our community.

    Each month your generosity touches more than 15,000 people in Toronto. Thank you!

    Without YOU we wouldn’t have been able to help your neighbours access food this year.

    This year we shared with you stories from many people.  People who were directly impacted because of you.  And those stories are just the tip of the iceberg!

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    From Jenna, who started grade four this year and loves science and gym class.  And her mom Trish, who had her hours cut at work.  Trish wasn’t sure how to pay the bills.  YOU ensured that Jenna didn’t go to school hungry!

     

    img_7197Your support helped Katherine, a dietician at a prenatal drop in program.  With your help, she was able to teach women about healthy eating on a budget.  YOU ensured that they would be able to feed themselves while they were pregnant and continue to provide nutritious meals as their children grow.

    nirajMore than 800 York University students use the campus food bank every week.  YOU made sure that they were able to access the food they needed to help them concentrate on their studies instead of hunger.

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    Marlene, a volunteer at a local food bank was able to give her neighbours more than just food when they came in hungry.  She was able to connect them with free services throughout the city to help them with parenting classes, recreational activities, resume building and more.

    Over 300 Syrians fleeing war and violence came to the Oriole Food Space after arriving in Canada.  There they have found more than food for their families, but the opportunity for a new life, work, friends and a chance.  A chance they wouldn’t have gotten without your support.

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    And Jennifer who is only 17 years old.  She found herself pregnant and homeless…instead of her original plan to go off to college and start her career.  YOU made sure she was able to feed herself and her son during these tough times.

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    These are only some of the people that you helped this year alone!  There are thousands more people that you directly impact through your generosity and support!

     

    We can’t do it without you and we couldn’t imagine trying!

     

    Thank you for all you do – it makes a world of difference – to us and the neighbours that you may never know.