Toronto Soup Kitchens and Food Banks
Toronto soup kitchens and food banks are especially busy this time of year as they juggle their standard operations with special offerings designed to share the seasonal festivities with the city's marginalized. And with the economy on shaky ground for most of the past two years these organizations are reporting significantly increased usage alongside a decline in donations.
Want to help out? Here's just a sampling of Toronto soup kitchens, food banks and other organizations that need donations and volunteers to ensure everyone in Toronto gets the opportunity to be fed and festive this holiday season and beyond.
Good Shepherd Ministries offer food, shelter, clothing and more to anyone in need. They report they're serving 50% more meals this year than they did in 2008, while food drive donations have decreased. The most urgently-needed items are food and personal hygiene supplies - details can be found on GSM's Wish List (PDF). Monetary donations also make a big difference in keeping the programs running and the lights & heat on for the long Toronto winter.
GSM is already heavily booked with volunteers for the holiday season, but encourages Torontonians to make a New Years resolution to volunteer in 2010. Volunteer opportunities include making beds, sorting food, helping in the kitchen, folding laundry, and working in the drop-in. Jobs involving contact with clients have an application process that can take a few weeks, but for jobs like making beds and folding laundry, simply call and book one of the available time slots. To volunteer, fill out an application online, or contact Rebecca at (416) 869-3619, ext. 262.
North York Harvest Food Bank's winter food drive is on until January 4th. Financial contributions can be made online through CanadaHelps.org or by phone with a credit card by calling 416-635-7771. Nutritious, non-perishable food items can be dropped off at local fire halls in northern Toronto and participating supermarkets. This season, North York Harvest is offering holiday cards for purchase in packs of 5 or 10 (for an additional cost you can have them personalized!). Cards can be ordered by contacting Mary Del Bianco at 416-635-7771 ext. 21.
North York Harvest Food Bank also relies on volunteers in a variety of roles, including general reception duties, greeting the public, entering office data and filing, sorting food, driving and assisting drivers for donation pick-ups, and helping plan and run special events. To help out, contact Lisa Anderson, Manager of Volunteer Services at 416-635-7771 ext. 29.
The Salvation Army's main focus during the Christmas season is two-fold: toys and cash. The cash donated in the Christmas Kettles, online, by phone, text or in the mail is used to help those in need all year round, including Christmas. It helps clothe, feed, counsel, and house. The Salvation Army gives Christmas food hampers with food collected and also uses gift cards to grocery stores, so that people can feel good about buying their own food. To donate, visit www.salvationarmy.ca, phone 1-800-SAL-ARMY or text "Hope" to 45678 (a $5 donation will be added to your bill).
During the holiday season, some Salvation Army shelters will need servers and people to prepare the eating area. They also need volunteer Bell-Ringers, to stand at their kettles (you can also create a virtual "iKettle"). To volunteer, contact your local Salvation Army, or call Salvation Army's the volunteer coordinator at 416-321-2654.
The Stop Community Food Centre offers a full spectrum of programs and services designed to increase food access and education, as well as a sense of community and civic engagement. Initiatives include everything from community kitchens and gardens, cooking classes, drop-in meals, peri-natal support, a food bank, outdoor bake ovens, food markets to community advocacy. To volunteer at the food bank or drop-in, contact Volunteer Coordinator Susan MacDonald at the coordinates listed here.
The Stop is running a "Gifts that Matter" campaign this holiday season. By making a $25 donation, you can purchase a food hamper for a family in need on behalf of someone on your Christmas giving list. Contact Danielle@thestop.org with the name(s) of the people you'd like to honour and for every $25 donation The Stop will send them a card saying that you've done so. To ensure card delivery prior to December 25th, your list of names should be submitted no later than December 14th.
The Yonge Street Mission had over 189,000 visits to their various programs and services in 2009, serving everyone from families trapped in the cycle of poverty, immigrants struggling in a new country, lonely and shut-in seniors, socially marginalized adults to homeless street youth. During the holiday season, the YSM food bank continues to distribute most-needed items, along with seasonal fare like chickens, turkeys, halal foods, cookies and other treats. YSM also hosts Christmas parties and banquets for the groups they serve, and coordinates the delivery of hampers filled with food/gifts to seniors and shut-ins. To see what items are most needed this holiday season, check out YSM's Holiday Wish List (PDF).
Holiday volunteer opportunities (PDF) are booking up fast! YSM needs people in a wide variety of roles, including receiving and sorting food, greeting and assisting food bank clients, helping with YSM's annual ornament sale fundraiser, and preparing, serving and cleaning up after YSM's various Christmas parties and banquets. Visit the YSM website for a full list of volunteer opportunities, details on how to get involved, or to make a monetary donation. Volunteers can also contact Ruth Pentinga at 416-929-9614 ext. 4236.
The Fort York Food Bank is well covered by their regular volunteers and corporate groups for the holiday season, but will be needing volunteers early in 2010 for their annual TTC Blitz. Watch the Fort York Food Bank website and newsletter for volunteer opportunities, which may be in any of the following areas: advocacy & counselling, graphic design & advertising, food sorting, community kitchen, special events, telephone reception & administration, computer resource centre, community garden and the FYFB Board of Directors. Fill out an online form to start the process.
Second Harvest's annual Turkey Drive campaign is on this weekend! The goal? To raise 6,000 turkeys and $60,000 for people in need. Last weekend they hit the 2,000 mark for turkeys and $15,000 in donations (to see how donations are used, click here). Visit one of the following Loblaws stores Saturday, December 12th or Sunday, December 13th between 9am and 6pm to help them hit their target!
* Leslie & Lakeshore - 17 Leslie Street
* Moore & Bayview - 301 Moore Avenue
* Queens Quay Market - 10 Lower Jarvis Street
* Victoria Park & Gerrard - 50 Musgrave Street
* Yonge St. & Yonge Blvd. - 3501 Yonge Street
* Dupont & Christie - 650 Dupont Street
You can also contribute to the campaign by donating online or calling 416-408-2594.
Second Harvest is also running a holiday eBay auction. 100% of the net proceeds will help to feed hungry children and families, allowing Second Harvest to pick up and prepare excess fresh food and deliver it daily to hundreds of social service programs.
Daily Bread Food Bank's holiday food drive is on from November 27th until January 4th. You can donate online, call 416-203-0050, or drop off non-perishable food donations to your local fire hall, Loblaws or Metro.
The most urgently-needed food items are: baby food & formula, canned fish & meat, peanut butter, canned fruits & vegetables, lentils & beans, powdered, canned or Tetra Pak milk, tomato sauce, dried pasta, cans of soup or hearty stew, and rice.
Most of these organizations will help arrange a pick-up if you have a contribution for their donation drives, so don't get discouraged by the logistics! This list is by no means exhaustive - to find out more, you can look up other local food banks here and community kitchens here.