This article has been submitted by B’nai Brith Canada: In Ward 6-York Centre, B’nai Brith Canada runs a critical and innovative program that is tackling food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
B’nai Brith Canada, which runs a myriad of social programming, community, and human rights initiatives for the Canadian Jewish Community, is a national organization which has championed the cause of human rights in our country since 1875. Before the pandemic, we ran a vital daily seniors’ program in Toronto. It offered a nutritious lunch and a recreational component to boost the psycho-social well-being of the elderly attendees. When COVID-19 hit and we were forced to close our seniors’ program, countless members of the most vulnerable in the Toronto Jewish community were devastated. Seniors, Holocaust survivors, folks with mental and physical disabilities, shut-ins, war veterans, the immuno-compromised, and people living below the poverty line, who had come to rely on our seniors’ program, were left stranded. To make matters worse, the Pride of Israel Kosher Foodbank announced that it was closing its doors indefinitely due to the pandemic.
We could not stand idly by and allow the needy and vulnerable to go hungry. Our motto is “People Helping People” and that is what we do. So, in response to the pandemic, we launched the COVID-19 Emergency Food Drive to deliver food to the needy every week – and we’ve committed to continue this program while COVID-19 is in our midst. Our Emergency Food Drive began on March 23 and will continue for the “long haul” — whatever time it takes! We are committed to keep on helping those at risk until this crisis is over.
Our food delivery system is quite extraordinary. First, we deliver healthy boxes of kosher food, free of charge, straight to the doorstep of those who most need our assistance. Our team of volunteers practice public health protocols and wear masks and gloves while physical distancing to drop off the boxes of food. Second, our volunteers check in with our recipients and stay for a short visit. This is especially important because most of the recipients have not left their homes during COVID-19, leaving them feeling depressed and isolated. We have heard many touching stories of how friendships have been forged between many volunteers and food box recipients. As our CEO Michael Mostyn has observed, “It’s very positive for the volunteers and for the recipients, who aren’t just receiving food but are receiving an emotional and social connection to somebody who cares about them. They know they’re not forgotten.”
We source healthy food from neighborhood businesses who donate excess foods to us and we also purchase groceries with funds we receive from private donors. Every week our volunteers pick up the food from various locations and drive it to our food bank where it is sorted and packed into boxes for delivery.
The B’nai Brith COVID-19 Emergency Food Drive has been running for eight months delivering boxes of food to over 140 families/individuals every Thursday. Boxes cost $75 to produce and donations can be made through our website at www.bnaibrith.ca/covid19
About James Pasternak
Councillor James Pasternak has represented York Centre (Ward 6) in Toronto City Council since 2010. He sits on the Mayor’s Executive Committee and Chairs the Infrastructure and Environment Committee as well as the Chair of North York Community Council.