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
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.
With your support, we serve over 15,000 people that are hungry each month! As you can imagine, it takes A LOT of food to be able to provide meals for our neighbours in need.
Through generous donations of individual and corporate donors, we receive 100,000’s of pounds of food. But all of this food isn’t ready to go out to the food banks – it must be sorted for quality first.
I caught up with Kadian Clarke, a staff member at North York Harvest – she works with groups of volunteers to sort through thousands of pounds of food. Since January, she’s trained and sorted with over 1,000 people including employee groups, schools, sports teams as well as families.
“My favourite part of the job is teaching people about the foods in the food bank as well as building awareness of hunger in our city.”
It turns out in order to sort all of this food; there are many rules. The reason for this is so we can provide the best possible food to people in your community. That means we can’t accept damaged, unlabeled, expired or half-eaten foods (yes, all of these items come into the warehouse on a regular basis and must be sorted before they reach the food bank).
“There are 23 categories of food that go out to agencies.” Kadian tells me as she sets up the sort room for her next group. These categories include baby food, rice, nutritional supplements, snacks and proteins – others in higher demand than others. “The important part of sorting them into these categories is that we can better serve the clients with food they need. This way agencies don’t get a box of random items ranging from tuna to pudding cups when what they really needed was canned beans.”
We are extremely thankful for all of the donations that we receive, but some of them can be completely strange. I asked some of the staff what items they’ve seen through the years that made them raise an eyebrow.
We definitely see the wacky and the weird in our bins on a regular basis for example:
Graham crackers from a company that went out of business years ago
Vegetable soup that expired in 1995
Caviar that was 10 years past the best before date
Cut off shorts
Expired military rations
Thankfully, most donations received are exactly what our clients are looking for in a food hamper: items like canned fish, canned tomatoes, beans, rice and baby food. It’s important that we take the time to sort and categorize these items. Unfortunately sorting through unwanted items is a lot of extra work. And it takes valuable time and money to dispose of anything that is damaged or expired.
Volunteers come in to sort with their coworkers or friends and end the session knowing more about hunger in the city and why their help is so essential. The thing that Kadian sees volunteers take away from the food sorting experience is a sense of accomplishment within the community. “After each sort session, we share how many pounds of food were sorted and how many families they are helping. This way the volunteers get to see their hard work pay off first hand. The groups feel great about being able to make a difference.” And make a difference they do.
North York Harvest provides food for 47 agencies throughout Toronto. Those agencies serve over 13,000 people each month – that’s a lot of food! Ever wonder where all the generous donations of food is stored before it makes it into these programs? Well today I’m going to show you!
I went live on Facebook to show off our vast 9,000 square foot warehouse to talk to our amazing warehouse staff about the work that goes into delivering this food to your community…. come join me on the tour…
Want to see it for yourself?? Let us know! We’d love to show you!