Food banks and meal programs from across Toronto come together for workshops on disability issues
Daily Bread Food Bank, North York Harvest Food Bank (NYHFB) and Second Harvest provide food for hundreds of programs across Toronto. Together, they also jointly organize a free full-day training event for the staff and volunteers that coordinate these food programs.
“This was my first Joint Agency Training Workshop, and it was wonderful to see so many agency staff and volunteers connecting with like-minded people from across the city,” said NYHFB’s Rowena Power, one of the co-organizers. “So often we work in isolation, so it’s really positive to feel like we are all part of something bigger.”
Lucky number 13
The 13th Joint Agency Training Workshop focused on disability issues, providing workshops in key areas such as changes to the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), mental health awareness and food program accessibility for those with both invisible and visible disabilities. Over 64 agencies came together to share knowledge and learn more about an issue that affects many of those coming to food banks and meal programs. Twenty-eight per cent of people coming to a food bank are on ODSP, and 49 per cent of food bank clients have a disability.
The cost of living with a disability
Most people can’t live on ODSP alone – that’s why they are coming to food banks. A final panel discussion looked at this issue in depth: what political and policy trends are affecting people on ODSP, as well as those living with a disability or physical illness? What can agencies do to help?
John Stapleton, a Daily Bread board member who is part of Open Policy Ontario, spoke about how challenging a situation it can be, with nine different disability benefits possible. ODSP can be an extremely isolating program, with the entire process wrapped up in red tape. What can agencies do to help?
Helping people find their voice
Because it’s so isolating, many people coming to a food bank or meal program find that their local food program often becomes so much more than just a place where they can access food. A food bank client from a recent survey said that her local food bank was also “her friends, her community, her restaurant and her library.” Building on that community that is already there, Stapleton suggested that helping people find their own voice is one of the biggest ways agencies can help.
I’m not the only one
Carolyn Bierma, one of the workshop organizers from Daily Bread, agrees that paving the way for people to self-advocate is valuable.
“Some people are natural-born advocates. But the reality for many others is that poverty grinds down that part of their self-worth and mental health until they have nothing left,” said Carolyn. “Many clients have expressed how much of a challenge it was for them to get to that place where you realize you’re not the only one struggling, and you start to come out of that isolation and learn some self-compassion…it is a struggle to realize ‘Hey, I’m in this situation NOT because there is something fundamentally wrong with me but because there is something fundamentally wrong with the system; it doesn’t help people the way it’s supposed to.’
Daily Bread submits report on improving access to food for City of Toronto Poverty Reduction Strategy as part of community consultations
In April 2014 City Council directed the development of a City of Toronto Poverty Reduction Strategy. In the City’s first round of consultations for its Poverty Reduction Strategy, food banks were discussed frequently when it came to suggested actions on improving access to food.
The City is currently wrapping up its second phase of consultation, which sought input in order to identify top priorities and principles, as well as focused “deep dives” on recommendations from specific areas (such as affordable housing, child care, support for quality nutrition for all). With a group of representatives from some of Daily Bread’s member agencies, Daily Bread staff facilitated and took part in a group discussion exploring some of the recommendations made in this first round of consultations, identifying some key recommendations in order to fight hunger and poverty in Toronto in both the short and long term.
Income and housing: foundational to addressing food insecurity
Despite the high number of people coming to food banks in the city, food programs only meet a fraction of the level of need. Recent research from Valerie Tarasuk, a professor at the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto, found that just over 20 per cent of low-income residents had accessed a food bank, and 5 per cent or less accessed community kitchens and community gardens. While very important and worthy initiatives for other reasons, they have proven unable to meet the needs of Torontonians facing hunger on the scale that is required.
As such, discussion participants felt that housing and income were foundational areas to address in order to address food insecurity. Without sufficiently addressing those two areas, little progress will be made on eliminating hunger and poverty in our city. As many issues around income security that drive food bank use rest outside the scope of the city’s responsibility, participants felt that the city can and should play a stronger, more visible role in advocating for these issues to be addressed at the provincial and federal level.
Suggested actions to improve food access: Looking closer
While these areas are foundational to reducing poverty and hunger, discussion participants felt that the City could help increase food security for people with low income in three key areas:
- Helping increase the availability of space to run food banks, as the needed facilities to run programs such as food banks are disappearing;
- Making a granting process available for food banks that help capital and core funding requirements for essential equipment like large freezers, so nutritious, perishable food can be adequately stored; and,
- Through partnership with Toronto Public Health, helping to fund the bulk purchase of key dietary items that are seen as critical in order for households to have a nutritious diet, and distributed through the food bank network.
As the City proceeds with its Poverty Reduction Strategy, there is much potential for progress to be made that improves the quality of life for all its citizens. Daily Bread, its vast agency network that helps feed Toronto, and the individuals who access their services, have a great deal of knowledge and experience that can help continue to inform this strategy as it moves forward. With that, the City of Toronto can help Daily Bread, along with its member agencies, in its mission to end poverty and hunger in our communities.
Click here to download and read Daily Bread’s full submission to the City of Toronto’s Poverty Reduction Strategy consultations – Poverty Reduction and Food Security: A Conversation.
 S Kirkpatrick, V Tarasuk. Food insecurity and participation in community food programs among low-income Toronto families. Canadian Journal of Public Health 2009; 100(2): 135-139.
We’re hiring for two positions through the Canada Summer Job Program, an Assistant Receptionist and Information & Referral Support Worker. Both positions are 30 hours per week, starting July 6 until August 28.
To apply for these positions you must meet the Canada Summer Job Programs eligibility requirements, which include being between 15 and 30 years of age and a full-time student this past year who intends to return to school on a full-time basis next year.
For more information on these jobs, eligibility and how to apply, click here to check out our job opportunities page! Deadline to apply is Friday, June 5, 2015.
Last night Daily Bread hosted the annual Best in Class Awards which recognized the amazing and outstanding support from our community and corporate leaders in our fight against hunger!
Here are the highlights of the evening and the 2014 award winners:
Community Fundraiser Award: Daily Flag for Daily Bread
Congratulations to Michelynn and Benedict Hilliard on this great accomplishment and for all of their efforts for Daily Bread.
Daily Flag for Daily Bread is a truly a unique event that raises donations and creates awareness about poverty and hunger issues in the Beaches neighbourhood. This event takes place over 25 days and actively engages neighbours and friends who create one-of-a-kind flags and then auctions them off, with proceeds going to Daily Bread. Last year, Daily Flag for Daily Bread doubled its donations and allowed Daily Bread to reach out and help more people in need.
“We have to keep at it until the government does more on this issue of hunger,” said Benedict Hilliard.
From l to r: Sarah Diebel (Daily Bread board member), Benedict Hilliard (Daily Flag for Daily Bread) and Gail Nyberg (Daily Bread executive director.
Volunteer Team Award: CIBC
CIBC and its employees lead by example by donating hundreds and sometimes even thousands of hours of their time and their valuable skills – volunteering on-site in our warehouse or at member agencies; participating in special events and in some cases sharing their technical expertise with us.
Since 2008, CIBC employees have been regular volunteer fixtures in our warehouse. They have devoted a remarkable 3,000 hours of their time to Daily Bread. CIBC employees are committed to the communities where they work and live and we are grateful for their support!
From l to r: Sarah Diebel (Daily Bread board member), Lina Lanni (CIBC District Branch Manager), Carissa Lucreziano, (General Manager- CIBC) and Gail Nyberg (Daily Bread executive director).
Corporate Donor Award: Great Gulf
This year we are recognizing one of our long-time donors who have shown their leadership in support of hunger issues since 2003 – congratulations Great Gulf! One of the unique things about Great Gulf is that they are one of our only corporate donors to make consistent monthly donations. We know we can count on them each and every month! This is a huge help especially when the shelves are low and we need to purchase additional food items to supplement what has been donated.
“We are going to bring our staff to volunteer and challenge others to do the same, ” said Madeline Zito, who is the Vice President of Public Relations at Great Gulf. “This is such a worthwhile cause.”
From l to r: Gail Nyberg (Daily Bread executive director) and Madeline Zito (Vice President Public Relations for Great Gulf).
Food Industry Donor Award: Campbell’s Company of Canada
Campbell’s Company of Canada has consistently provided outstanding food donations, of significant quality and quantity and on a regular basis. Campbell’s understands that hunger is a complex issue – they support hunger issues through donations and also work hard to raise awareness and inspire our neighbours to get involved. Last year alone, they provided over half a million pounds’ worth of food donations. They are probably the best neighbour we could ever imagine!
“There are many people that are really struggling to feed their families and many children as well who are going hungry,” said Moya Brown. “At Campbell’s, we are committed to alleviating that hunger.”
From l to r: Sarah Diebel (Daily Bread board member), Moya Brown (VP, Marketing at Campbell’s Company of Canada) and Gail Nyberg (Daily Bread executive director).
Agency Award: Friends of Jesus Christ, Canada Food Bank Ministry
Friends of Jesus Christ, Canada Food Bank Ministry, has been working with Daily Bread since 2008. This agency has consistently stepped up and covered areas when a food bank in the area has closed down, leaving a potentially devastating gap in being able to provide food to those in need. They are reliable leaders in helping to feed people in Toronto and we’d like to congratulate all of their efforts and the impact they have on people’s lives every day.
From l to r: Sarah Diebel (Daily Bread board member), Leticia Jonayon (Friends of Jesus Christ, Canada Food Bank Ministry) and Gail Nyberg (Daily Bread executive director).
Partner Award: Toronto Professional Fire Fighters
The Toronto Professional Fire Fighters have shown commitment and outstanding leadership! Every member of their team is already a hero in our city but they are also heroes for Daily Bread. Thanks to their generosity and support Daily Bread would face a big gap in our link to the community and in providing enough food to both our agencies and the food programs we support.
These leaders in our community and their fire stations have already collected over one million pounds of food. They’ve also run their own annual event since 2010 called The Starkman Cup Trivia Challenge and through that have raised $80,000. But, their support doesn’t stop there. This group also supports our other events and have collaborated by helping to create awareness across the city and through the donation of their time at some of Daily Bread’s third-party events.
“There’s nothing more rewarding than when a five-year-old has a little bag with soup cans in their hands and we have to lift him up so they can put it the box…It’s extremely gratifying to work with Daily Bread,” said Frank Ramagnano as he accepted the award on behalf of Toronto Fire Services and the Toronto Professional Fire Fighters’ Association.
From l to r: Sarah Diebel (Daily Bread board member), Frank Ramagnano (President of the Toronto Professional Fire Fighters’ Association) and Gail Nyberg (Daily Bread executive director).
To see more photos from this year’s Best in Class, check out the album on our Facebook page by clicking here.