The City of Toronto is working closely with community and corporate partners to ensure that the food needs of vulnerable Torontonians are being met during the COVID-19 pandemic. Several recently launched programs have already helped hundreds of residents and their families access the food they need, when they need it the most.
The City is also partnering with United Way Greater Toronto, 211 and large-scale community food programs including Second Harvest, Daily Bread Food Bank, North York Harvest Food Bank, Red Cross and the Salvation Army to help ensure that community food programs including food banks, multi-service centres, home delivery programs and meal drop-ins can continue. The City has made resources such as facilities, staffing and equipment available to partners. Efforts to improve food access include:
• Food delivery for seniors: Responding to the Province of Ontario’s recommendation for everyone over the age of 70 to self-isolate, the City is working with the Red Cross and other partners to provide food hamper delivery to seniors and others in need unable to leave their homes. Since April 6, the Red Cross has been accepting calls at 1-833-204-9952 for those who require this service – with 376 clients qualifying as of April 9. With support from United Way Greater Toronto, this service is made available for qualifying clients that do not have alternative access to food and are not receiving assistance from another community food program. The call centre is closed this weekend but will be reopen Monday, April 13. • Access to food banks: Nine food banks are now open at Toronto Public Library locations, in partnership with the North York Harvest Food Bank and the Daily Bread Food Bank. As of April 9, approximately 2,400 individuals in need have used these new locations. • Food for kids: The City is working with student nutrition program partners to support the Food for Kids program which is sending grocery gift cards to families of children in need who attend school in Toronto and were previously enrolled in the program. The $50 food card for these children and each of their siblings represents the approximate value of 30 healthy breakfasts for each child. To date, 28,000 children have been invited to register to receive the gift cards.
The City is asking multi-residential buildings, such as condos and apartments, to allow grocery and food deliveries inside buildings to permit those who are self-isolating or COVID-19 positive to remain inside their units.
Residents can call 211 directly for information on food program availability or view a map of local service providers on the 211 website at: covid19.211central.ca.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for food programs has increased dramatically. Meeting the needs of Toronto’s most vulnerable is a key City priority. With more than 40 per cent of food bank programs closing during the crisis, food programs continuing to operate are under immense pressure to meet the increased demand.
Residents are encouraged to drop off non-perishable food donations to food banks or local fire halls. Restaurants or food businesses with surplus food are encouraged to donate to Second Harvest’s FoodRescue.ca. Corporate, financial and in kind donations are also strongly encouraged and can be channelled through the City by emailing TOP@toronto.ca.
About James Pasternak
Councillor James Pasternak has represented York Centre (Ward 6) in Toronto City Council since 2010. He sits on the Mayor’s Executive Committee and Chairs the Infrastructure and Environment Committee as well as the Chair of North York Community Council.