Working Together to Stop Hunger and Ensure Access to Food
During this difficult time, we must all work together to protect those in our community who are most vulnerable. This includes making sure that everyone has access to healthy food, and that no one goes hungry.
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. As more than 40 percent of food bank programs have closed during this crisis, the food programs continuing to operate are under immense pressure to meet demand.
The City of Toronto has established a Food Access Coordination Support Group that meets daily with large-scale community food programs in order to develop a Food Security Strategy. The Strategy is focused on ways to keep existing food programs open and to fill the gaps left by the closure of some programs. Elements of our Strategy are outlined below, and it will continue to evolve over time.
The best source for up-to-date information on food program availability is 211toronto.ca. Food listings are updated daily as information is received from providers. Residents can call 211 directly, or view the map of open food bank locations at: https://covid19.211central.ca/gta-food-banks/
Free food hamper delivery
As of March 30, anyone age 70 or over, along with people who have symptoms of COVID-19 or who have recently travelled, is required to self-isolate. The City is working with the Red Cross and other partners to provide food hamper delivery to seniors and others in need who are self-isolating and unable to leave their homes to access food.
Beginning Tuesday, April 7, the 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 seniors that do not have alternative access to food and are not receiving assistance from another community food program.
The Red Cross operates a user-friendly telephone registration system, with a live operator and customer service in multiple languages. This is an essential, free service. There is no fee for the cost of the groceries, or for the delivery.
Financial need is not a requirement for this service. However, residents who have the ability to purchase delivery services or rely on alternate supports like friends, family, or other delivery programs, are urged to do so. This will help make sure that these supports can get to the people who need them most.
Access to food banks
Four food banks are now open at Toronto Public Library locations, which had previously been closed in support of City efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19. The first library food bank 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 library food bank locations will be open across Toronto. The City is also facilitating food banks in Toronto Community Housing buildings to be available to tenants and in specific community centres where possible.
These food bank locations are staffed by City employees. Personal protective equipment and hand sanitizers are provided on-site. The physical set-up ensures physical distancing is maintained, and security is provided at each location. Special cleaning is done after each opening.
Food for kids
The City is working with student nutrition program partners to repurpose resources to support the Food for Kids program, which will get grocery gift cards to families of children in need.
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-staff forklift operators to Daily Bread Food Bank to assist with warehouse operations and has trucks and drivers on standby to help transport food.
All Torontonians are encouraged to reach out to their neighbours to offer help and to ask for help during the COVID 19 emergency. Residents who are able, are encouraged to donate to food banks or drop off food donations at local fire halls. Restaurants or food businesses with surplus food are encouraged to donate to: foodrescue.ca
At this time, we must all do what we can to support those in need. Many people in our community have lost their job or seen their income decline as a result of this pandemic. That means it’s more important than ever that we continue to look out for each other.