It took the Daily Bread Food Bank just three minutes to sign up enough volunteers to help sort donations from its holiday food drive. It was enough demand to warrant extending its usual year-end event into the new year.
While there has been the usual outpouring of interest the food bank has come to rely on during the holidays, it and other food banks are hoping the interest doesn’t wane.
CEO Neil Heatherington said the demand for food donations is just as high in the summer months. Unfortunately he noted not as many people think to drop off food outside of December.
Serving 120,000 families in the city is no easy task. When full the Daily Bread warehouse only has enough food to last just 10 days. That makes success of holiday drives — like this year’s — even more crucial.
“We want to make sure that it’s busting at the seems at this period when individuals are giving,” said Heatherington, “because it’s more difficult for us when it comes to other times in the year.”
Looking around the room full of busy volunteers, Cheri O’Neil said it was an amazing sight. Still, as year-round volunteer and food bank client, O’Neil said she would like to see a little more from those willing to help.
“They should do it more often than just for the holidays,” she said.
O’Neil has been using the food bank once a week for the past three years and lending a hand there for almost the same amount of time. She said she’s seen the demand grow, especially among seniors.
“Come out, be nosy and take a look,” O’Neil said, offering advice on how to get involved. “Come out and give a hand.”
Along with the demands for food basics, Toronto has seen growth in the number of food banks catering to specific diets. Throughout the city, there are niche centres offering support to vegetarians, Indigenous communities and Muslims.
The Muslim Welfare Centre in Toronto’s northwest has been running a halal food bank for the last 25 years. It too has seen an increase in those calling on them.
“Demand is gradually increasing the clientele since we started,” said program manager Syed Rizvi.
Currently Syed said they were serving about 100 people a day. While it may have been set up to ensure people don’t have to compromise their beliefs to get a good meal, Rizvi said regardless of their faith, the centre would help anyone who called on it.