Toronto

Daily Bread Food Bank brings Ontario produce to Toronto Community Housing residents

The Daily Bread Food Bank is launching a farmers' market-style program, where Ontario farmers donate excess produce to the residents of five Toronto Community Housing neighbourhoods in Scarborough.

The farmers' market will visit five properties starting this weekend until the end of September

The Daily Bread Food Bank is starting a farmers' market-style program where Ontario farmers donate excess food and it's given for free to residents of five Toronto Community Housing neighbourhoods in Scarborough. (Doug Husby/CBC)

When the Daily Bread Food Bank tested out a program it is launching Saturday, residents apparently couldn't believe what was happening.

"They said, 'is it real? Is this really happening in my community?'" said Neil Hetherington, CEO of the Daily Bread Food Bank.

It was a farmers' market in some of Toronto's low-income neighbourhoods, filled with baskets of vegetables, fruits and herbs, that the residents could take home for free.

The food bank is officially launching this program on Saturday, where Ontario farmers donate their excess produce, or any produce that would otherwise go to waste, to Toronto Community Housing residents in Scarborough.

"The result is essentially farmers' markets, these community markets in places of the city that you would not typically expect those," said Hetherington.

The Daily Bread Food Bank identified five neighbourhoods in Scarborough that the markets would rotate through every weekend until the end of the growing season in September. It's part of the food bank's overall goal this year to increase food distribution to priority neighbourhoods by 20 per cent.

Riga Farms Ltd. donates fresh produce weekly to the Daily Bread Food Bank to give to residents of Toronto Community Housing. (Doug Husby/CBC)

Fresh produce is often hard to come by for the city's low-income residents, according to the Toronto Community Housing Corporation's vice president Angela Cooke.

"Very often there's a choice that residents have to make between getting fresh fruits and vegetables, which cost more, versus getting cheaper food options that are going to be able to last for the length of time until they get their next income," said Cooke.

Hetherington doesn't want residents to have to make that kind of choice.

"If you just look at it from a human level, the question is around dignity, around making sure everyone in the city has access to good, nutritious food," said Hetherington.

Riga Farms Ltd. donates a pallet of food weekly to the Daily Bread Food Bank. (Doug Husby/CBC)

With some transportation help from Walmart, the food bank picks up the produce from farmers once a week ahead of the market.

Riga Farms Ltd., a herb and vegetable farm located in Newmarket, donates a pallet of food every week with excess food, or food that can't be sold at grocery stores.

"It's mostly waste if we can't give it away," said Peter Riga, who co-owns Riga Farms with his two brothers.

Riga said his farm will donate produce if it hasn't been sold after about five days, or if it's "number two product," which is produce that is misshapen or smaller than what grocery stores are looking for.

Riga Farms donates produce throughout the winter as well, supplying close to 2,000 pounds of carrots a week, according to Riga.

"We get a lot of support from the people of Ontario and this is our way of doing something that aligns with what we do as a company and helps those people as well," said Riga.

Peter Riga, who owns Riga Farms Ltd. with his brothers, donates excess produce to the Daily Bread Food Bank to give to Toronto Community Housing residents. (Rachel Levy-McLaughlin/CBC)

Residents who attend the Daily Bread Food Bank market have a limit on how much food they can take. According to Hetherington, it's determined beforehand based on how many family members are in the unit, where they live, and how much food has been donated that week. On average, however, each person is given around 12 pounds of food.

But, Hetherington said they are encouraged to come back — if there are leftovers once everyone has gone once, they're free for the taking as well.

"The fact that they've been able to get this fruit and vegetables has really made a difference in terms of the types of foods they'll be able to eat for the rest of the month," said Cooke.

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