By JAYSON DIMAANO
Late last month, Feed Scarborough, part of the Scarborough Food Security Initiative (SFSI), started an online food bank.
Serving a number of Scarborough communities including Cliffside and Oakridge, the initiative has been running a number of food banks since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The move to also offer an online option was made to make the service accessible to everyone in the community. That came on the heels on converting their food banks to more of a grocery-store style facilities in the fall of last year.
In a press release, Feed Scarborough said that with support from Daily Bread Food Bank and Toronto Foundation, it converted three of its existing food banks into grocery stores in November of 2020.
Previous to that, clients of the food banks were offered a pre-packaged hamper of food (fresh and non-perishable). They are now invited into the Feed Scarborough food banks and/or online store to select which fresh and dry groceries they will bring home to their families, said the press release.
During the first wave of the pandemic, many food banks closed, due to COVID-19 health regulations and concerns.
This meant many people who relied on these food banks could not access them.
Suman Roy, the founder of SFSI and a few volunteers, thought about coming up with a solution for the 350 households in the area that needed food bank services.
“Ultimately, clients’ safety, choice, and dignity inform operations at Feed Scarborough. Witnessing growing lines is daunting, especially with the cold weather, making it all the more important to develop solutions,” said Roy.
“We hope that the launch of our online food bank will grow our capacity by 40 per cent to meet the growing demand for food assistance due to COVID-19 in Scarborough southwest.”
SFSI did a two-week pilot project of the online food bank and it was a success.
They found that their online store was more accessible to people who either have limited free time, are unable to travel outside their home, and/or felt the stigma of accessing a food bank in person.
On top of that, they were getting new clients; people who never used their food assistance program before.
SFSI needed to think creatively, work with limited resources, and prepare for worst possible case scenarios in order to faithfully serve their community. But thanks to sponsors such as the Daily Bread Food Bank, Second Harvest, friends, and volunteers, they have kept Feed Scarborough open consistently since the pandemic began.
The press release added that Feed Scarborough hopes the success of the online store launch will encourage other food banks across the country to move in this direction as well.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to push more people into poverty, food banks will play an even bigger role in the food system. The conversation around dignity and choice needs to be central if we are going to meet the increased demand for food assistance with compassion and solidarity,” the press release said.
To shop their online store, please visit https://scarboroughfoodsecurityinitiative.myshopify.com/
For information on the Scarborough Food Security Initiative, please visit https://scarboroughfoodsecurityinitiative.com/home
The initiative also advocates for services for those in need in the southwest Scarborough area. As part of that advocacy, they will be holding the online Feed Scarborough Summit 2021 on Poverty, Inequity and Hunger on Tuesday, Feb. 9.
The summit goes from 5 to 9 p.m. Issues to be discussed will include systemic barriers to necessities such as food, housing, and water, and what solutions exist.
Scarborough Southwest MP Bill Blair, Scarborough Southwest MPP Doly Begum and Scarborough Southwest Councillor Gary Crawford will be among those taking part in the summit.
To register to participate, or for more information, please go to https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/2021-summit-on-poverty-inequity-hunger-feed-scarborough-tickets-134552262439?ref=ecount