Time is running out for a food bank in the East End.
For nine years, a weekly food bank at Woodbine Heights Baptist Church has served fresh and non-perishable food to some 200 households in need.
Run by volunteers from Woodbine Heights and more recently from the Friends of Jesus Christ Church, the food bank serves a large part of East York – from Danforth Avenue up to O’Connor Avenue, and Donlands Avenue east to Main Street.
But after so many years of service, Woodbine Heights needs someone else to take up the cause.
The food bank is scheduled to close on August 20 and so far, no one has stepped up to handle the next delivery for the area.
“This is an area where we’ve had a really, really hard time finding first of all space, and then an organization to run it,” said Gail Nyberg, executive director of the Daily Bread Food Bank, which helps manage the food bank along with another 200 other food programs across Toronto.
“We’ve knocked on the doors of every church and community place at least twice in the last year.”
If another site isn’t found before the August close, Nyberg said families will have to travel to food banks outside the area, including the one at Calvary Baptist Church on Main Street in the Upper Beach.
Nyberg said Daily Bread is still searching for a new site and volunteers, and they have asked local MPP Arthur Potts for help.
One option may be to host it at a local school, she said, noting that a Scarborough high school is already hosting a Daily Bread meal program.
To run the food bank, Nyberg said groups need at least the space of a portable classroom, or about 600 square feet, with power for fridges.
Most importantly, they need dedicated volunteers.
“It’s at least a two-day per week commitment – the day to receive the food and unpack it, and the day to give it out and get it all cleaned up,” she said.
Speaking from Woodbine Heights Baptist, Pastor Bob Paterson-Watt said the ideal site will also have easy access for deliveries, which arrive by truck from Daily Bread and Second Harvest, an organization that rescues surplus food from grocery stores.
“We’re literally bringing in a ton and a half, to two and a half tons of food,” said Paterson-Watt.
“And we’re three stairs up and ten stairs down, so it’s difficult here.”
But running a food bank is rewarding, said Nyberg, both for clients and for volunteers.
In fact, she said, many clients also volunteer, which can be a helpful route for people looking for work.
“It’s community development, it’s feeling good, it’s giving back to your community – everything involved is important,” she said.
“I would say it’s a faithful response to our call as people in the church to love our neighbour as ourselves,” he said.
“We got to know our neighbours, and are able to call them by name at the food bank, but also just on the street when we’re doing other things.”
“That’s definitely important.”
For more information about how to host a local food bank with help from Daily Bread, email Ramiro Arteaga at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 416-203-0050.