East-end Toronto groups band together to launch food bank for families struggling during COVID-19
Food will be delivered directly to families to help contain the virus, organizers say
Some east-end organizations have banded together to launch a food bank that will help Torontonians who are struggling to make ends meeting during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The main thing is a lot of people have lost their jobs and there's no employment for them, so there's that challenge of getting food, groceries," said Aamir Sukhera, trade centre coordinator for The Neighbourhood Organization (TNO), the group spearheading the project.
Sukhera, who grew up in Thorncliffe Park, says people in East York lived paycheque-to-paycheque even before the pandemic.
So with thousands of neighbours in the area to feed, Sukhera said the organization is working to ensure that people without a financial safety net will know when they'll receive their next meal.
"Some of the volunteers, I asked them, 'Why are you here? Why are you helping out?' And they're like, 'Well, next month, we might need food too,'" he said.
Sukhera, who also works with new Canadians to help them find work, says he personally knows hundreds — if not thousands — of people in the community who have recently lost their jobs due to the pandemic.
"We have to do our best and stay a community to help each other," he added.
"We're all in this together."
Safety measures in place to keep people safe
Many community members seem to agree with that notion.
After the Islamic Society of Toronto donated the warehouse space needed to operate the food bank, other community groups started chipping in with donations of their own.
One of those groups, The Leaside Toy Drive, organized a GoFundMe that has raised $10,000 to date.
"When we got the call we jumped into action," said Daryn Everett, who's on the committee that runs the Leaside Toy Drive.
The project, which officially launched two weeks ago, operates differently than a typical food bank.
Instead of people coming to pick up the products, food is delivered by volunteers directly to families' doorsteps to avoid large gatherings and reduce the spread of COVID-19.
"Boxes are going to be picked up this afternoon and tomorrow by volunteers and taken to families in need — an entire high-rise community," said Michael Zivot, who's also a member of Leaside Toy Drive's committee.
The boxes have been filled with food donated by local grocery stores, community members and businesses, and will include non-perishable items, such as oil, canned goods, pasta and gift cards.
Future of food bank depends on donations
Everett said he's proud of the food bank, which didn't exist a month ago and is already feeding families in need.
But he said the project will only survive if businesses and individuals continue to donate.
"We're hearing directly from the TNO that there's a lot of families here that are hungry," he said.
With files from Lauren Pelley