By Nick Fassbender, Outreach & Event Assistant
Arts in The Parks, as an initiative, is working towards bringing diverse artist representation to neighbourhoods across Toronto, with a focus on Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough communities. We strive to give Artists the opportunity to perform and collaborate with community members, amplifying the voices of people who live in those communities. An issue that is prevalent among Torontonians, in various neighbourhoods and districts, is that they are experiencing food insecurity, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Food is a basic human necessity and it is concerning to find that in 2019 food banks around the city experienced an increase in visits from 2018. Arts In The Parks supports local arts organizations that work towards combating hunger in the city. In years past we have worked with MABELLEarts who, during the COVID-19 pandemic, surveyed their database of community members and developed a method to check in with people about their status during quarantine. They quickly discovered that their most vulnerable community members were in need of food. With support from MABELLEarts’ sponsors, groceries were delivered around the city to 10 different families in need. Another organization that is also highlighting food insecurity this summer is Community Arts Guild with their project Plant Love. Plant Love is run in partnership with the Scarborough Village Community Garden that grow vegetables and herbs for people in the community for free. They also plan to give, where able, grocery bundles to local families during the Harvest Festival in September.
In addition to arts organizations, there are also many other food banks in neighbourhoods around the city helping to support communities with food insecurity during the COVID 19 pandemic:
Sai Dham Food Bank was founded in 2012 by Subhra Mukherjee and Vishal Khanna to combat food insecurity among seniors and individuals with disabilities in the GTA. Their services include a number of helpful initiatives that support local food sustainability. In Mississauga, Sai Dham Food Bank is the only food bank that is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They have also innovated and pioneered delivering perishable and non-perishable groceries to people in need across 9 cities in the GTA.
In present day Toronto, where COVID-19 is affecting thousands of individuals, Sai Dham has been there for support. Sai Dham Food Bank donates over 100 meals a day to Mount Sinai Hospital’s front-line workers. A Peel region environmental scan revealed that 14% of households experience severe food poverty, and 51% of those households are made up of children. Sai Dham made a point to combat this by delivering 150 servings of breakfast per day to children who would normally depend on their school’s special care breakfast programs. Subhra and Vishal and Sai Dham Food Bank for making a difference in their community and supporting those in need who battle with food instability on a daily basis.
During this pandemic, support from the public is invaluable for Sai Dham and the services they provide. Please go to this link for more information or to help by donating: https://www.saidhamfoodbank.com/
North York Harvest Food Bank is the primary food bank for North Toronto, and has distributed over 2.3 million pounds of food in the last year through 77 community programs. They experience a staggering amount of visits each month, with just over 16,000 residents utilizing the services. North York Harvest Food Bank has many initiatives that have allowed their mission of engaging the community in meeting the food needs of northern Toronto attainable. They do so by providing dignified food assistance, education, focused advocacy, and long-term food solutions. They have also started Tribute Giving (e-card) where you can write an e-card to someone in need. These initiatives have increased the reach of the North York Food Bank and have helped increase food donations.
Following the models of equity and inclusion North York Harvest Food Bank strives to ensure that diverse members of the community have full, fair and unbiased access to their services. They are dedicated to understanding, learning from, and working cooperatively with community members in the fight against food scarcity in the city.
If you would like to learn more and have the ability to donate to the North York Harvest Food Bank, please visit their website: https://northyorkharvest.com/about-us/
ACSA Scarborough South Drop In served over 105,000 families in 2019! With the support of their community, they were able to continue serving the families that use the food bank service. This is only possible from the generous donations from the community, churches, schools, and local businesses. Every year the community comes together and donates truck loads of food to help their community in need. So many in the community struggle to meet their basic needs, and face hunger on a daily basis. People who visit the food bank come from all ethic and educational backgrounds. They include families with children, employed people whose work low wages that do not cover basic living essentials, individuals on social assistance, and Torontonians living on fixed income, such as seniors and people with disabilities.
If you would like to learn more and have the ability to donate to the ACSA Scarborough South Drop please visit their website: https://www.agincourtcommunityservices.com/food-bank