Situated in Scarborough, Food Pantry at Morningside has become a small but lively community hub in the Toronto Community Housing Complex from which it operates. Serving more than 600 individuals each month, the food bank has been thriving since its inception in the summer of 2016.
Founder Manjura Rehman is also a volunteer who takes her role and commitment to supporting community that her organization CSAGSS (Canadian South Asian Growth & Support Services) believes in, very strongly. As Executive Director of CSAGSS, and a member of the Mornelle community where the Food Pantry at Morningside is located, Manjura recognized her community’s need for food and other supportive resources, and decided to act.
She understood that food not only nourishes the body, but also brings people together. She encouraged the local community to get involved in running the program and now Food Pantry is primarily run by TCHC residents and clients looking to give back to the community that they’re a part of. She initiated a program evaluation process that involved the community in the creation of the questions used to evaluate the program to include as many voices as possible. They are meeting needs and investing in their community by feeding people, creating bridges across communities and fostering leadership in volunteers and clients.
To further involve different stakeholders in decision-making and increase transparency, CSAGSS established an advisory body that includes representatives from TCHC & Working Women Community Centre, as well as five Mornelle residents. This advisory committee meets twice a year to support CSAGSS in monitoring program direction and operations. Manjura also mentored a passionate resident and community leader, Heba, to work alongside her providing intake support for their Arabic speaking newcomers, and eventually take over coordination of the program.
Part of Food Pantry’s success has been driven by their efforts to actively build relationships outside of the program with TCHC staff, the area’s Community Development Officer, Scarborough U of T, other local agencies providing support, and local businesses that supply excess food. The relationship Daily Bread and CSAGSS built with TCHC was so important that it led to the opening of two more Daily Bread Member Agencies – food banks – in TCHC buildings in Scarborough, allowing us to bring food directly to high-needs communities.
As part of Daily Bread’s 20/20 Vision initiative to bring 20% more food to 20 high-priority neighbourhoods, this community was also selected as one of the locations for our Mobile Food Market, which distributed thousands of pounds of fresh produce directly from farms to communities during the summer of 2018. In only two short years, Manjura and her dedicated team have brought food, supports and attention to the needs of their community and we can’t wait to see what they do next!