By FELISHA HENRY-LEE
Residents of the Birch Cliff community come together weekly at the local food bank to organize and distribute perishable and non-perishable food items to help those in need in the southwest Scarborough neighbourhood.
The Bluffs Food Bank, located in Birchcliff Bluffs United Church at 33 East Rd., was founded in September 2003 with the support of five local churches. The organization puts its emphasis on maintaining a simple goal; ending hunger in Birch Cliff and the Bluffs communities.
“Well it is sad that we have a food bank, because I think everybody is entitled to food,” said Gail Barkic, President of the Bluffs Food Bank.
“I think that’s a human right and that’s not basically understood,” added Barkic, who is also volunteer CEO of the food bank and a Birch Cliff for resident for 45 years.
Sixteen years ago, the food bank began feeding a handful of individuals from the neighbourhood.
Now, the food bank serves more than 8,000 meals annually. Each week, 300 families representing 1,200 individuals come to the food bank for the grocery program that provides clients with a three to four day supply of groceries.
The food bank services an area of 15 square kilometres which includes a mixed-income population of new immigrants, refugees, and social service dependents.
Lise Struwing, a first lead volunteer at the food bank, shares that the clients who benefit from the services expresses gratefulness and appreciation for it.
“It is our neighbours we are feeding,” she said. “It is our neighbourhood. The community has rallied around the food bank, the churches, the businesses.”
Barkic wants people to understand that a lot of families are at a disadvantage and in need of support.
“Think about it. By the time you pay for housing or other expenses, there is very little left over at the end of the day to shop and so people are scrambling just to manage and survive,” she said.
Prep work and organization such as cooking, sorting and cleaning begins on Tuesdays at the food bank. On Wednesdays the food trucks come in to deliver the non-perishable and perishable food items. Volunteers will then organize and label all items, so distribution remains on track for Thursdays.
Clients are to be registered and claim each supply of groceries during the hours of operation on Thursdays from 1 to 3:30 p.m. and from 6 to 7 p.m.
Bluffs Food Bank users should note that after Thursday, Dec. 19, all services at the food bank will be closed from Friday, Dec. 20, through to Tuesday, Jan. 7. This includes client services, deliveries and donation drop-offs.
Those requiring assistance during that time are asked to contact www.211toronto.ca or dial 211 on the telephone. The Bluffs Food Bank will re-open to receive deliveries and donations on Wednesday, Jan. 8, and will re-open to distribute groceries on Thursday, Jan. 9.
For more information on the Birch Cliff Bluffs Food Bank, and how you can help, please visit www.bluffsfoodbank.com