Whether it's records, furniture or vintage clothing, Kate Salter is used to swapping items online. But when she stumbled across a Facebook post by a man asking for fresh food, she was shaken.
Salter was scouring the online community Bunz Trading Zone late one night in April when she spotted the post.
"They'd had peanut butter and tuna, but they couldn't face any more of that and they were wondering if anyone had something as simple as a banana to share," Salter told CBC's Metro Morning on Friday.
Stunned, she replied that she'd be happy to share her own food.
She didn't hear back. She went to bed but couldn't sleep.
"Around two in the morning I posted a general offering to that online trading group that I'd be happy to share any groceries or any food that I was cooking if someone was experiencing food insecurity, and that if they need to make it to my neighbourhood I would provide tokens," Salter said.
"I went to sleep and woke up to about 2,000 'likes' and an outpouring of support from other community members wanting to help, as well as a number of requests for assistance."
'Not trying to reinvent the wheel'
Salter said she's always been aware food insecurity was an issue in Toronto, but it was the personal plea she couldn't ignore.
When Salter saw the replies to her own Facebook post seeking assistance, she decided she wanted to do more. That's when the idea for GoodFood Help was born.
"We are not trying to reinvent the wheel. There's plenty of great food services here in Toronto," she said, citing Second Harvest, STOP and the Daily Bread Food Bank.
"So what we provide is a discreet, one-on-one meet-up in a neutral location to provide fresh produce and healthful foods in a very discreet way," she said.
"It's not stigmatized. We will provide personal delivery, so there's not the transportation cost or mobility issues that might prevent people from accessing traditional food services."
The most up-to-date numbers from Statistics Canada show that almost 12 per cent of Torontonians experience food insecurity. The city's residents make about one million visits to food banks each year.
Farmers' markets donate to cause
Salter receives requests online and then arranges to meet with the person requesting help in a public place. She makes packs of fresh food, sometimes supplemented with prepared meals.
The food comes from donations of surplus via delivery services like Mama Earth Organics, as well as farmers' markets. She also accepts monetary donations, which she uses to purchase food.
Her organization's first food drop-off was May 1 and she's done more than 100 drops-offs since.
Salter says she isn't worried about people taking advantage of the program, even though she doesn't ask for proof that they need help or collect personal information.
"I think for a lot of people experiencing temporary food insecurity it's uncomfortable to go to a food bank, or to a drop-in centre, or to a shelter for a meal program," Salter said.
"So it's really trying to break down the barriers that some people face with accessing traditional food services."
She is hosting a launch party and fundraiser for GoodFood Help next Monday at the Gladstone Hotel, starting at 7 p.m.