The reality is that not all people who experience hunger will benefit from food banks. In response to the volume of Toronto residents who lack access to a kitchen, cooking tools or other food preparation methods, Daily Bread Food Bank introduced a weekly community meal program on November 25, 2021—running every Thursday evening from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m.—to serve the south Etobicoke population.
While the program is currently offering takeout only, due to COVID-19 restrictions, participants were—and, upon reopening for dining, will be—welcomed with coffee, tea, seating and were served a hot, hearty meal, restaurant-style. In addition to the main course casseroles and soups prepared en masse for member agencies, Matthew Neill, Food Services Manager here at Daily Bread, and his culinary team creatively assess food donations and inventory to further flesh out the menu with sides and other additions. This winter’s comfort fare ranges from beef stew with proper bread rolls to panko-crusted haddock, as well as plant-based options like sweet potato aloo gobi and a black bean vegetarian bake.
Alongside a nourishing dinner—and as part of a rights-based approach to service—the program provides information and referrals services for guests who experience hardships beyond hunger and would benefit from additional resources relating to housing, employment and more. Looking to the future, once restrictions have been safely lifted, Matthew hopes to be able to offer these additional programs on-site for guests to access directly when they come in to dine on Thursday evenings.
As far as long-term plans go, Matthew emphasizes the importance of getting to know the community first. Once it is safe to do so, he envisions organizing focus groups with meal program participants—allowing them to take the lead on developing a comfortable, welcome space that we can then execute.
In the spirit of building a strong community within the space, Matthew notes, “The people who access the space determine the future of the space.”
If you’d like to help support this and other community programs, we encourage you to donate!