Marina’s Picks: Seva Food Bank

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Marina’s Picks is a regular feature from CanadaHelps CEO, Marina Glogovac, highlighting some of the many charities she is personally passionate about. As a champion for smaller charities, Marina wants to help fellow Canadians discover some of the lesser known organizations that are working to make our communities better.

Cultural values and spirituality to me are more than ties to a particular religion. They are about the interconnectedness of the human experience, love and support, and our own journey of personal growth. This is just one of the reasons I think Seva Food Bank is such a special place.

At its two locations across Mississauga, Seva Food Bank provides local families in need with safe, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food. While Seva is founded in the Sikh ethos, it is a mainstream organization, with clients, volunteers and staff that are as diverse as the communities it serves. As Board Chair and co-founder Kulvir Singh Gill told me, Seva Food Bank is a Canadian story — an example of neighbours feeding neighbours.

Seva means selfless service, which is fitting given Seva Food Bank was founded by a group of second-generation Sikh-Canadians, including Mr. Gill, who wanted to create a space that reflected the goodwill in their community and put their values into action — including sarbat da bhalla, meaning the wellbeing of all.  They wanted to share the privilege they feel they have from growing up in Canada with access to universal healthcare, public education and feeling safe and secure. As Mr. Gill told me, “Canada has given us so much and we want to give back to those that have not been as fortunate.” As an immigrant myself, I feel this deeply.

Seva is more than just a food bank. Celebrating their 10th anniversary, they describe themselves as both a safety net for the vulnerable and a springboard to self-reliance. For example, they designed their Board of Directors to be a “leadership factory” where young professionals can build their skills, and take on new responsibilities, experiences and challenges. Seva also prides itself on building relationships and trust, and they actively work to understand why their clients are using the food bank so they can help them navigate the system to get support with their challenges, no matter the issue – job loss, family violence, mental health, etc. The goal is address the root cause of their hunger and poverty that brought them to the food bank in the first place.

When I spoke to Mr. Gill recently, I wanted to know how the COVID-19 crisis had impacted the work they did. What he told me was so powerful:

COVID has been the great accelerator of underlying trends. It has disproportionately impacted the most vulnerable and we have seen a large number of new clients. Some of our former donors are now asking for support. Clients have sat in their cars and cried before asking for help. But there is no shame. We treat everyone like family. At some point we will all take on different roles – give, take, volunteer, donate. We are all together in this cycle of life.” 

I encourage you to check out and support this inspiration charity that is working so hard to support the community it works in. Learn more about the Seva Food Bank on their website, or make a gift through their CanadaHelps Charity Profile.

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