The City of Toronto is working closely with community and corporate partners to ensure that the food needs of vulnerable Torontonians are being met during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the beginning of the pandemic and implementation of extraordinary measures to slow the spread of the virus, the need for food programs has increased dramatically. Meeting the needs of Toronto’s most vulnerable is a key City priority.
The City is working with 211, United Way Greater Toronto, and other Toronto agencies to identify where the greatest needs are and how best to ensure low-income and vulnerable residents continue to have food access.
The best source for up-to-date information on community food program availability is 211. Program listings are updated daily as information is received from providers. Residents can call 211 directly for information or view a map of local service providers on the 211 website, https://covid19.211central.ca/.
Today, Mayor John Tory announced that corporate partners have stepped up with significant contributions to help ensure that community food programs in Toronto – including food banks, multi-service centres, home delivery programs, meal drop-ins – can continue. Sobeys Inc. has donated approximately 7,030 cases of food and Loblaw Companies Limited has provided $30,000 of food credit. Kraft Heinz Canada has donated more than 3,650 cases of baby food, with additional quantities anticipated soon.
Due to the COVID-19 response, many people are unable to leave their homes and face financial hardship, and many of the community supports they regularly use have closed or altered their services in keeping with recommended public health measures. As more than 40 per cent of food bank programs have closed during this crisis, the food programs continuing to operate are under immense pressure to meet the increased demand.
The City is working with several community programs to address food access, including Second Harvest, Daily Bread Food Bank, North York Harvest Food Bank, Red Cross, and the Salvation Army. Led by the City, this group is focused on identifying ways to keep existing food programs open and to fill the gaps left by the closure of some programs.
In addition to working with corporate partners to secure donations, the group is actively working on multiple food access programs including:
• Food delivery for seniors
Responding to the Province of Ontario’s recommendation for everyone over age 70 to self-isolate, the City is working with Red Cross and other partners to provide food hamper delivery to seniors and others in need who are unable to leave their homes to access food. Beginning tomorrow, April 7, Red Cross will be accepting calls at 1-833-204-9952 for those who require this service. With support from United Way Greater Toronto, this service is made available for qualifying seniors and others that are in self-isolation and do not have alternative access to food through family, friends, or other food delivery services, and are not receiving assistance from another community food program.
• Access to food banks
Four new food banks are now open at Toronto Public Library locations, with another two opening on April 7. The first location opened on March 25 in partnership with the North York Harvest Food Bank. Three opened this past week in partnership with the Daily Bread Food Bank. Eventually, nine locations will be open. The City is also facilitating food banks in Toronto Community Housing buildings for tenants and in specific community centres where possible.
• Food for kids
The City is working with student nutrition program partners to repurpose resources to support the Food for Kids program, which is getting grocery gift cards to families of children in need.
• Indigenous communities
The City is providing support for the Toronto Aboriginal Support Services Council (TASSC) to coordinate food access for Indigenous communities facing similar challenges created by the COVID-19 response, including increased access to food and financial support.
• Providing equipment to community food programs
The City is providing requested equipment to support community food program operators to help maintain operations and serve residents. To date, the City has provided City fork lift operators to Daily Bread Food Bank to assist with warehouse operations and has trucks and drivers on standby to help transport food.
• Connecting resources to those that need them
The City is working to connect offers of free services and other resources, such as free hot meals, food delivery, free spaces, and available equipment to agencies and communities that need them.
Residents who are able are encouraged to donate non-perishable food to food banks or drop off food donations at local fire halls. Restaurants or food businesses with surplus food are encouraged to donate to Second Harvest’s FoodRescue.ca at https://foodrescue.ca/. Those interested in volunteering are encouraged to register with https://www.volunteertoronto.ca/ or https://www.sparkontario.ca/.
“We are doing everything we can as a municipal government to help residents during these tough times. That includes making sure vulnerable residents have emergency food access. These generous and much needed donations, coupled with the City’s ongoing efforts to improve access to food with its community food program partners, will immediately help thousands of Toronto residents and their families.”
– Mayor John Tory
“We will measure our response to COVID-19 on the basis of how we cared for the most vulnerable. Ensuring access to food for all is part of our City’s comprehensive response. Whether you are an isolated senior requiring food deliveries or a low-income family in need of groceries, the City will have your back”.
– Councillor Joe Cressy, Spadina-Fort York (Ward 10), Chair of the Toronto Board of Health
“I have been working closely with the community to find solutions on how to feed the hungry especially during this time of heightened need, with safety and public health an utmost priority. I am overjoyed by the private sector’s response. In Scarborough Southwest, Ward 20, over 5,000 square feet of space has already been donated for food distribution. I am grateful to the City and its leadership for coordinating resources across the City so that communities are not working in isolation and for ensuring that all residents are truly being served.”
– Councillor Gary Crawford, Scarborough Southwest (Ward 20)
“At Loblaw, we know the importance of giving back to the communities where our teams live and our work. Today, these communities need us more than ever, and we’re happy to provide additional support to the City of Toronto and local community partners to get food and health essentials to those who need them most.”
– Nicole Donaldson, Manager, Community Investment, Loblaw Companies Limited
“Our Community Action Fund is investing millions to help our local communities in need. In addition to empowering our network of stores, we are working closely with food banks across the country to help alleviate the strain on their services. When the City of Toronto asked us to help our most vulnerable neighbours, we didn’t hesitate. We are proud to partner with Second Harvest, Daily Bread, North York Harvest and others to help ensure that our neighbours have access to the essentials they need during these unprecedented times.”
– Michael Medline, President & CEO, Empire, parent company of Sobeys Inc.
“Kraft Heinz Canada is a long-time partner of food banks across the country and we are pleased to step up to help feed Torontonians and all Canadians during this challenging time. As Canada’s largest food company, we are always grateful to work with partners like the City of Toronto and food banks to ensure everyone can feed their families in these difficult times.”
– Bruno Keller, President, Kraft Heinz Canada
“United Way has partnered with the City of Toronto to connect our network of agencies to emergency response through neighbourhood coordination tables. It was at these tables that access to food emerged as an immediate priority for our most vulnerable residents. I know that I’m joined by all Torontonians in thanking the frontline staff at community agencies across the city who have worked quickly and tirelessly to adapt their food service delivery, to make sure that everyone has access to the nutritious food they need.”
– Daniele Zanotti, President & CEO, United Way Greater Toronto
“The Canadian Red Cross has a long-standing partnership with the City of Toronto to provide support in emergencies, including the current COVID-19 pandemic. We are pleased to be working in partnership with the City of Toronto and other community organizations to help address food access and security by providing food delivery for individuals who have no other options. Together we can ensure individuals and families continue to have access to nutritious meals.”
– Tanya Elliott, Vice-President Ontario, Canadian Red Cross
“We’re proud to be working with the City of Toronto and our non-profit allies to provide food support and bring hope during this unprecedented crisis. We are all working together towards the same goal: that no Torontonian is left behind.”
– Lori Nikkel, CEO, Second Harvest
“We are working collaboratively with the City of Toronto to find innovative solutions to food insecurity challenges stemming from COVID-19. Our partnership with Toronto Public Library to offer pop-up food banks in communities impacted by food bank closures, is just one example of our city coming together to ensure the needs of the most vulnerable members of our communities are being met. We are grateful to the City as well as operational partners, like North York Harvest Food Bank, for their vision and continuous efforts to ensure no one in our city goes hungry during this crisis.”
– Neil Hetherington, CEO, Daily Bread Food Bank
“The COVID-19 situation is highlighting the impact and magnitude of food insecurity in our city. It is more important than ever for the public, private and non-profit sectors to work together to protect the most vulnerable members of our community. North York Harvest Food Bank is proud to be partnering with the Toronto Public Library and various City of Toronto departments to provide immediate assistance to those struggling to access appropriate food. We hope that these initiatives will also lay the groundwork for long-term solutions to the twin challenges of poverty and food insecurity here in Toronto.”
– Ryan Noble, Executive Director, North York Harvest Food Bank
“The Salvation Army has been working in conjunction with the City of Toronto through this pandemic to ensure food security for some of the most vulnerable members of our community and has been able to maintain the operation of all of its fourteen food bank locations in Toronto because of the efforts of our committed staff and volunteers. Our immediate concern is having the food and supplies necessary to keep these food banks stocked and working in partnership with the city to secure necessary supplies will help us ensure we have the resources needed to meet the needs of the people we serve.”
– Major Rob Kerr, Salvation Army
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