By AMARACHI AMADIKE
Beach United Church has accelerated its fight against food insecurity in the community.
Last fall, the congregation installed a food pantry outside the church with a philosophy of “Give what you can, take what you need”.
“The church has always been concerned with meeting the needs of people who are less fortunate,” said Paul Dowling, board member at Beach United Church. “One of the big needs we’ve identified in our community over the years is for food.”
This isn’t Beach United’s first attempt at tackling the problem of food insecurity. For many years, they have been helping the community through a lunch program operated in collaboration with various other churches in the neighbourhood.
Every Thursday from the fall through till the spring, they provide food for those in need, serving about 50 people each day.
Although they would prefer for the program to run all year round, a lack of volunteers in the summertime makes this very difficult to achieve.
To counteract the void left during the summer, members of the congregation began stocking a pantry with personal donations after hearing of other communities doing the same. They’ve invited anyone in the community who is in need to take an item. Others who are more fortunate can help by leaving something in the pantry, no matter how little.
“The reality is that food insecurity is a constant in our community as in other communities because, for many people, the income they receive from work or social assistance isn’t enough to meet the cost of living,” said Dowling.
For some, social assistance only covers the cost of housing. This leaves them with no financial support for their food needs. Many flock to places like Beach United Church for assistance; however, help is very limited. The church’s pantry donations currently feed about 10 people daily with enough backstock to refill the pantry for just “several days”.
“We have to keep on replenishing it because the food goes as fast as we put it out,” Dowling said. “If people in the community were interested in supporting the effort, they could bring food and put it in the pantry.”
Staff at the R.C Harris Water Treatment Plant on Queen Street East have responded to the church’s call for community assistance by donating generously to the food bank. While their donations have made an impact, Dowling believes that much more help is needed from across the community to sustain the level of aid required in the neighbourhood.
Beach United Church encourages food donations, but financial donations can also be sent to them through the official website. Funds received will be put towards food programs like the food pantry as well as the lunch program.
“The need is great,” Dowling said. “We’re doing what we can but we know that it’s not enough. The more people that help us, the more we’ll be able to do–the more people we’ll be able to feed.”
Those planning on making large donations of food are asked to do so at the church office, 140 Wineva Ave., before 11:30 a.m. on weekdays.
For other community organizations helping address food insecurity, please see our earlier story at https://beachmetro.com/2022/08/09/community-care-connect-set-to-mark-second-year-of-providing-food-security-support-for-east-toronto-residents/