Toronto’s Daily Bread Food Bank kicked off its annual Thanksgiving Food Drive on Thursday with the aim of raising $3 million and collecting 336,000 pounds of food.
“It’s been a very, very difficult time for too many,” Neil Hetherington, CEO of the Daily Bread Food Bank, told reporters during a news conference at the food bank on Thursday morning.
Hetherington said the goal is ambitious, but he is confident that the food bank will reach it with the help of city residents, organizations and businesses by the time the food drive ends on Oct. 31.
“I know we can do it. This is a city that fundamentally cares and doesn’t want to see anybody living in a situation of food insecurity,” he said.
Hetherington said about 60,000 Toronto residents went to the food bank every month before the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of monthly client visits doubled during the pandemic, reaching 120,000.
Between January and August 2022, after inflation began to rise, that number rose to 182,000.
As a result, the food bank’s purchasing budget rose from $1.6 million in 2021 to $13 million in 2022.
“It hasn’t been easy,” Hetherington said.
Hetherington said there is a lack of affordable housing, a lack of income security and decent employment in Toronto, and all three problems are contributing to food insecurity in the city.
Toronto Mayor John Tory, who also spoke at the news conference, said the city is experiencing uncertain economic times due to inflation, rising rents and rising interest rates and the municipal, provincial and federal governments are searching for solutions.
“The objective is … that we try to ensure affordability for people who live in the city,” Tory said.
Tory said the Thanksgiving food drive is important because it makes a difference and he believes it’s a time of year that Torontonians do “step up” with food, money and time.
He said items most in need include canned fruit and vegetables, canned fish and meat, canned tomatoes, oatmeal and nut butters.
Red Bag campaign
Purolator, as part of its partnership with the food bank, will run its Tackle Hunger Red Bag campaign, in which it will distribute 25,000 red bags in certain neighbourhoods, including the Annex, Roncesvalles, Danforth and Riverdale, on Saturday, Sept. 24.
People can fill the bags with non-perishable food donations. All bags will be collected on Saturday, Oct. 1 by 12 p.m. and delivered to the food bank.
“As we move into the holiday season, I’m so pleased to be a part of this initiative, which plays an important role in supporting our local communities,” Cindy Bailey, director and head of corporate sustainability for Purolator, said at the news conference.
Fire stations across the city have donation bins. Food can be dropped off at any station 24 hours a day and financial donations can be made through the food bank’s website.