Malvern Eats: A weekly pop-up lunch that's more like a restaurant than a food bank
Toronto police officers serve tables and help out in the kitchen at community lunch
Every Thursday, a pop-up restaurant in Malvern serves hot, healthy meals to seniors and community members to help and fights back against the stigma surrounding the use of food banks.
Malvern Eats is a grassroots, multi-agency collaboration that puts together a restaurant-style lunch for more than 150 guests.
The Muslim Welfare Centre (MWC), a GTA-based halal food bank, works in partnership with the Toronto Police Service, Taibu Community Centre and a neighbourhood organization called 1LoveMalvern.
"It's natural in a neighbourhood like Malvern where food security is an issue to address the needs of folks, primarily seniors, who are not able ... to afford to have a good meal as often, or some of them are not able to cook," said Firaaz Azeez, special projects manager at MWC.
By making the experience more casual and social, it doesn't feel like a food bank meal to those who attend, says Azeez.
Officers with Toronto Police's 42 division help serve up the meals.
"Usually, you never see the police in this kind of setting. I usually see them in their cars. This is different," said Viola Clarke, who shows up regularly for the meals. "They're just so wonderful. It's fun just to meet with them in this setting. They serve us, they socialize with us."
Staff Sgt. Andy Ecklund with 42 division says officers do everything from serving the tables to working in the kitchen.
"This allows us to show the people of the Malvern community we are people just like they are," he said. "They like to talk to the officers...a lot of my officers are favourites among some of the ladies that come in here."
The lunch is put together by staff and volunteers who hope to create a restaurant atmosphere for those dining.
"The food is terrific and just to get to socialize with all the people is just truly wonderful," said Clarke. "We're truly blessed in this community. I am so very happy. I wouldn't live any place else."
Sounds of the Season is CBC Toronto's annual charity drive. Please visit our website for details on the Dec. 2 event and how you can support local food banks.