TORONTO — For 40 years, The Stop Community Food Centre has changed the way people can access healthy food.
Through innovative nutritional programs, they are able to build relationships in the community and help reduce the underlying issues that lead to poverty and hunger.
“They are single people, they are older people, they are family members, there are even a lot of young people who come and use The Stop which unfortunately in Toronto is increasingly a regular thing for more and more people who are food insecure,” says Rachel Grey, The Stop’s executive director.
Once a month, throughout the year, a three-day supply of food consisting of fresh produce, milk, eggs, and whole grains is provided to food bank members when they need it most.
“Well, today I was actually specifically going for protein. Some cheese, some peanut butter and stuff like that. I can actually tailor when I come here, what my needs are,” says member, Roy Fitzsimmons.
Volunteers help each food bank member to create the hamper that meets the needs of the recipient and their family.
Marlene Thompson is a regular volunteer at The Stop and values the importance of giving back to the community. She has always had a passion for people and helping them in their time of need.
“Through my own struggles in life, where I’ve lost my job and I’ve had a taste of what it’s like not to have and have to be dependent on others, and that propels me to volunteer and help others even though I’m in the same position as them,” says Thompson.
Food is one of the many things that brings people together, especially around the holiday season. Six years ago, The Stop decided to implement the Gifts That Matter program so that donors can give the gift that keeps on giving.
“We used to give Christmas gifts to each of our customers, but a few years ago we realized we could have a greater impact by pooling all of those resources and making a donation to The Stop and helping the community,” says donor, Rob Groh.
A $35 donation to the program represents the cost of the hamper for a family in the community. The program is a way to connect to the spirit of giving and has supported hundred of families over the years with healthy and nutritious food.
“Poverty is very stigmatizing and poverty is very isolating. We treat people with respect and dignity because well, that’s what we all want to be treated with. We all provide for each other here at The Stop,” says Grey.