Grace Pascoe Food Bank dealing with high demand during its evening opening hours on Thursdays

The Grace Pascoe Food Bank, at Calvary Baptist Church on Main Street, is need of donations to meet the high demand of families and individuals seeking help. Photo by Alan Shackleton.

By AMARACHI AMADIKE, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

There lies a common misconception among many that food banks are solely reserved for homeless people. Although it shouldn’t, this also creates a negative undertone when residents think about the idea of approaching food banks for help.

But contrary to such belief, Toronto’s food banks are a source of financial relief for workers that, perhaps, just don’t earn enough to meet the growing demands of our inflated economy. As prices soar, many have simultaneously seen their working hours decline, putting them in desperate, unmanageable living situations.

“Many of our clients in fact work,” said Boafoa Kwamena, a volunteer at the Grace Pascoe Care Centre Food Bank on Main Street, between Kingston Road and Gerrard Street East.

“They’re just unable to stretch their budget. Some people come only once a month to get a few items while others are regulars who come every week.”

For more than 60 years, Grace Pascoe Care Centre, a ministry of Calvary Baptist Church which serves residents from Victoria Park to Woodbine avenues and from Danforth Avenue to Lake Ontario, has made it their goal to meet the immediate needs of such East Toronto residents in an attempt to make their journey towards self-sufficiency easier.

“One of the things that we’re grateful for is that Calvary Baptist offered us this space rent free,” said Kwamena. “It was their idea to serve the working families of our community. They spearheaded [the idea of] opening at night and they were absolutely correct to do that.”

Taking into account that people who work during the day sometimes require just as much assistance, since reopening last May following COVID-19 pandemic closures, Grace Pascoe has operated between 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. every Thursday so as to ensure those who work during the day have equal opportunity to access their services.

“We’re one of the few food banks that actually open at night,” said Kwamena. “It’s grown since we reopened but we serve from 280 people a week on [low traffic] nights to 380 on [high traffic] nights.”

Kwamena told Beach Metro Community News that Grace Pascoe, like many other food banks in the city, is seeing an increasing number of families seeking assistance.

“About 25 per cent of people we serve are under the age of 18,” she said.

This coincides with reports that one in four food bank clients in Toronto are minors.

Keeping up with this rise in food bank demand has proven tough.

As a Daily Bread Food Bank agency, Grace Pascoe is required to give clients at least four days worth of food. However, food shipments, which they receive from Daily Bread, have not been sufficient to comfortably meet this requirement considering the increase in food bank traffic.

“There are a lot of times where we will run out of milk, or eggs, or tuna towards the end of the night which is really difficult because it has required us to [pull] back on what choices we offer clients just so that our food stretches to more people,” said Kwamena.

Although clients might not get their first choice of food, Grace Pascoe has been fortunate enough to always be able to give a client something.

“But what tends to happen now is people start lining up at 3 p.m. sometimes, even though we open at six, just so they can get [everything they need].”

Grace Pascoe has operated quite under the radar in the community. As one of the seemingly lesser known food banks, according to Kwamena, they “don’t have some of the strong community partnerships” that provide them with donations which limits their ability to assist as efficiently as the more established organizations.

Lately, they have been in need of bread, tomato sauce, and proteins such as canned fish as these seem to fly off the shelves quicker than other items.

As families visit the food bank more often, Grace Pascoe has also seen an increase in mothers looking for diapers for their babies – an item that they are not always able to provide.

Although Grace Pascoe can’t meet every client’s request, the organization’s volunteers have built a strong bond with the individuals they serve – some of them even joining the team, helping them grow to about 20 volunteers as of now.

Kwamena told a story of one grateful client, an 80-year-old man, teary eyed, who told her that he couldn’t believe the position he was in at this point in his life. Having worked his whole career, the man said he would never have predicted such a desperate future for himself.

However, he showed immense gratitude about the fact that Grace Pascoe was available to help him during this harsh period. With nine per cent of their clients being over the age of 65 due to circumstances such as insufficient pensions, it is safe to assume that this individual’s story is not unique to just him.

“When you speak to our clients they will say if it wasn’t for the food bank, they don’t know how they’d feed their family,” said Kwamena. “Because the cost of food, transit and everything is making it impossible for people to stretch their budget. Food banks are filling a really important void.”

In 2022, there was a 134 per cent spike in food bank dependency in Canada. That number is expected to increase another 60 per cent this year.

The need for food security within the City of Toronto is ever-growing, and support for food banks and other organizations is also desperately needed.

“We need community support,” said Kwamena. “We are really struggling to serve our community and anything anyone can do to supplement what we already get from Daily Bread would be really, really appreciated.”

Anyone who would like to donate food items, or monetary contributions, is encouraged to bring their donations to Calvary Baptist Church (72 Main St.) on Wednesdays between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., and Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Anyone who would like to volunteer with the Grace Pascoe Food Bank can reach out by email to volunteergpcc@gmail.com for further information.

Amarachi Amadike is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Beach Metro Community News. His reporting is funded by the Government of Canada through its Local Journalism Initiative.


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