It’s Friday at 8:15pm, and the doors to the food bank have just been closed. Slowly, the spacious room where the program runs is being cleaned by the generous hands of volunteers. Chairs have been collected, the tables are stacked, and the floor has been swept and mopped, while all volunteers are satisfied by another night of their duties fulfilled.
Harmony and tired laughter are interrupted by the doorbell – a family appears who have finally found the address of the food bank after an hour of searching. Immediately the doors are opened and four chairs returned to the waiting area, allowing the exhausted family to rest. The looks of hope and hunger are present on their faces. The hampers are prepared with care, taking into account their special dietary needs and preferences, and placed on the table to be packed into grocery bags. That’s when both children rush to the table and the younger exclaims, “Look Daddy! We’re rich!”
Grant AME became a member agency of Daily Bread Food Bank in August 2018 and every Friday since then has opened its doors from 4 to 8pm, on 2029 Gerrard Street East. The volunteer-run program welcomes hundreds of working families and people from all walks of life every week, offering them groceries, hot meals and clothing. This program helps to alleviate the pressure on other food banks in the area, who have seen large growth in their client base. The new Food and Fellowship Soup Kitchen and Food Bank at Grant AME is the only program in the East end that is open on Friday evenings, hopefully resulting in increased food access.
“We’re excited about serving the community,” says long-time parishioner and co-coordinator Loy Pinnock-Brown. She describes the commitment to having a food bank arising as the group looked for ways to better serve their community, and saw a clear gap.
The trend in Toronto witnessed by those of us on the frontline indicates that more families with temporary, part-time and even full-time jobs must rely on food banks to supplement their income. After paying their rent, utilities and transportation, the amount of money left to purchase food is not enough. Healthy and nutritious foods are then seen as a luxury.
“This is just an extension of what we believe we’re called to do, which is help those in need,” Pinnock-Brown says, pointing to a number of initiatives Grant AME undertakes to help those who are struggling to put food on their tables, including regular community dinners and an annual Christmas food hamper program.