Charity Spotlight: This blog post was provided by Sufian Malik from FoodShare Toronto as part of our ongoing charity spotlight series.
A lot goes into a meal.
Look at your dinner plate. It has a piece of roast chicken or lentil curry, some leftover veggies that you turned into a side, a glass filled with your favourite drink. The ones you care about surround you, their plates piled high, and the conversation a joy. You anticipate the first bite and look forward to the next hour. You delight in everything food is: nutrition, pleasure, culture, and connection.
But this isn’t the picture for four million of our Canadian neighbours who experience food insecurity—far too many in a country as wealthy as Canada.
FoodShare Toronto Does More Than Distribute Food
For over 30 years, FoodShare Toronto has worked on increasing food access. Instead of just distributing food, we’re using innovative ways to reduce food insecurity in Toronto and build community through the food we eat.
We’ve done this through modelling ideas like Good Food Markets, ones that make fresh produce available in neighbourhoods where it sometimes isn’t. We’ve done it through schoolyard farms where students plant, nurture, harvest, cook, and sell produce outside of their classroom. And we’ve done it at community kitchens where newcomers connect with each other through meals they love.
In 2017, our impact extended to 200,000 kids in schools every day, over 30,000 Torontonians served through markets, and over 9,000 folks reached though food education and more!
Plus, we’ve also deepened our impacts over time in schools:
- Our School Grown program offers paid employment to 30 youth each year as they work together to grow vegetables and fruits.
- Our Good Food Machine brings food education into the classroom as students watch veggies grow in aeroponic growing towers.
- Our Chefs in the Classroom program allows students to work with real-life chefs, experimenting with new cooking skills and local ingredients.
- Our Student Nutrition program feeds over 200,000 children and youth in 600 schools to enjoy healthy snacks and meals each day.
It takes a lot of resources to bring our programs to life.
To fund our work, we’ve even developed social enterprise projects like our gift baskets and catering program to generate funding for the work we do. Torontonians can order catered meals from our kitchen and proceeds made are then re-invested back into the work we do and programs we run. We continue our work because we understand how important food is, and at the heart of our work is our creative and innovative approaches to addressing food insecurity. We’re not just dishing out food, we are undertaking creative solutions to make change.
Reducing Food Insecurity
At FoodShare Toronto, we’re very aware of one thing—nothing we do will solve food insecurity. No food charity can. While non-profits do incredible work, we can’t claim to solve poverty across Canada. We support food access, but we don’t get to set welfare and disability rates or minimum wages. We can’t over rely on food banks and to achieve long-term change.
Canada ratified the right to food as part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1976 yet food insecurity remains. What if we looked at food as a human right? What if we asked our governments to honour their commitment? What would a food system that includes the elimination of poverty and food insecurity look like?
We need politicians to commit to working with us to affect change in systemic inequities in our society, including racism, white supremacy, the policing of people of colour, violence against women, and of course income inequality. We’re not going to end poverty with canned food donations. Our elected officials need to be thinking in a bolder way about what it will take to end poverty, not cutting programs that help those who struggle the most.
In the meantime, at FoodShare, we continue to dream of, model solutions, and advocate for a better food system—one that’s equitable and one that puts poverty in the history books.