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Saturday, October 10, 2020

Toronto Food not Bombs is feeding thousands of people during the pandemic

A Toronto grassroots organization that has provided meals to thousands of individuals throughout the pandemic months is requesting help to keep their work going in the winter.

The Toronto Food Not Bombs chapter is an organization founded in 2016 which has been delivering groceries and meals to local community members experiencing food shortage and homelessness over the past five years.

7 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Toronto Food Not Bombs has provided groceries to 160 families or 4,480 people on a weekly basis in the Allan Gardens area downtown.

“When COVID-19 happened [volunteers] didn't feel comfortable cooking anymore in the kitchen,” said Ryan Galloway, speaking on behalf of the collective.

“Luckily, I had anticipated this, and had loaded my car up modestly with canned goods. And other sorts of ready to eat things that people could use, if they had a kitchen, for that first week." 

The first week of the shutdown, things were really tough for people. If you rely on food banks or shelters they were all shut down. You couldn't go to the bathroom at a Tim Hortons. You couldn't even get fresh water to drink anywhere, said Galloway.

At first, the group could only serve about 40 to 50 people, but after putting call-outs for groceries and fresh produce, people were quick to reach out and give cash donations which allowed the team to create “robust” bags of food for people.

People can come and line up at Allan Gardens and are provided with a variety of fresh vegetables and fruit, at least two canned goods like soup and tomato sauce, grains including rice and/or pasta, snacks like granola bars, cookies and crackers as well as chocolate.

In addition to the packaged groceries,the first 70 people get fresh berries and everyone gets a hot meal provided by a partner kitchen, a sandwich, a loaf of bread and as much water as needed. 

“You can come to the park to pick up two of our paper bags, you get that much food right with no questions asked, you just line up, and we'll look after you,” said Galloway.

It’s one of the things that sets them apart from other food banks in the city which oftentimes require an extensive interview process explaining your situation. The process can be kind of humiliating or terrifying for some people, he said.

“So if you're gonna come out to the park and wait for 20-25 minutes, that's enough for us.”

In July, Toronto Public Health revealed that 83 per cent of COVID-19 cases impacted racialized individuals. 51 per cent of cases involved people living below the low-income threshold — despite only 30 per cent of residents being low-income.

To get the work done, Galloway says it’s a lot of hustling and making connections, partners, and friends with the community across the city—because ultimately it’s unrealistic to buy everything on their own, however, the payoff is worthwhile.

They have provided $224,000 worth of food to Toronto's hardest-hit communities.

Throughout the year, Toronto Food Not Bombs has had two fundraisers to keep their momentum going, their most recent one being in July and that has carried them up until this point. But they’re coming to the end of their funds and are hoping the community will help them continue their work.

“A lot of people really believe in what we're doing. And we do things in a different way than the traditional sort of top-down government-regulated charities. We're all volunteers. None of us get paid at all. And we support Indigenous groups and activists across the city, and when there are protests, we show up, make sure that people are fed and looked after.”

Every sum counts, and because there is no administrative or staff pay, a small amount goes a long way in sustaining the work we do, Galloway explained.

This week’s Toronto Food Not Bombs update. Two weeks ago, we showed you an inside look into how we get food to people, and last week we told you the story of how TFNBs never stopped during Covid. Now, we are reaching out for help. Sometimes, it’s hard to ask for help, but we are running desperately low on funds, and WE NEED YOUR HELP. We will also be launching our brand new website! Many people that use our service have to choose between rent or food, others it might be medication or food, and still we know of others who give everything they have to struggling family members and rely on us for the only food they can get. We do the best we can to help these people. Many of you will know what ODSP is, but for those of you who don’t, it’s the Ontario Disability Support Program and it’s simply doesn’t provide enough money for people to pay rent in this city, let alone eat. We do the best we can to help these people. And finally. There are people that simply don’t fit into this work till you drop, dog eat dog world and have to do their best to survive outside the “system” so to speak. We do the best we can to help these people too. Community members come to us knowing they don’t need to fill anything out or explain to anyone why they are here... they just get food. This rising need has led to an ever increasing weekly lineup and in turn increasing our costs considerably. We are almost out of money and in order to keep providing the community with bags of hot meals, fresh produce, robust dry goods, and love, we again NEED YOUR HELP. You can help us by making an etransfer to Preferred password Carrots

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On Friday, the Ontario government ordered a shutdown on restaurants, movie theaters and other services as COVID-19 cases soared above the 900 mark for the first time since the pandemic was announced. 

If the need for food goes over 200-300 people, Galloways said it’s gonna be tough.

“Hopefully this fundraiser can really help us but we're not going to give up or stop. As the need becomes greater, then we're just going to have to hustle more.”

by Raneem Alozzi via blogTO

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