By AMARACHI AMADIKE, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
An East Toronto restaurant owner is calling for more support from local businesses and residents to help tackle the city’s food insecurity issues as an increasing number of people continue to rely on food banks and meal programs for their daily needs.
After donating 50 meal bowls to Beach United Church’s Thursday Meal Program earlier this month, Mehfill Indian Cuisine is hoping that other establishments will follow suit.
The restaurant, which opened its first East Toronto location in the Beach last December, reached out to Beach United Church as “a token of appreciation” for the community it serves after receiving a warm welcome to the neighbourhood, according to Mehfill Indian Cuisine’s Director of Marketing Pooja Mondal.
“Having two other locations in Brampton and Etobicoke, we weren’t sure if the location would work out for us because it was a completely new area,” said Mondal.
“But the response was pretty great over the months so we just thought of doing something charitable that will help the community.”
Mehfill’s owner, Prafulla Upabhyay, decided to approach Beach United Church considering its close proximity to the restaurant. The restaurant donated three options of meal bowls to the Thursday program – Palak Paneer Rice Bowl (Spinach Cottage Cheese); Chhole Rice bowl (Chickpea); and Paneer Makhni Rice Bowl (Creamy Indian Cottage Cheese curry).
“We were really delighted to see it was a success,” said Mondal. “We are thinking of doing something [like this] once a month.”
Mondal said that Mehfill will be looking to donate more food to other similar programs in the community and urges neighbouring businesses to do the same.
“If a business is able to help the community, it’s always something that will come back to them in a different light,” she said.
“More businesses should feel encouraged to do something similar. If everybody does their own bit, that’s a lot of community support.”
Beach United Church’s meal program, which started on May 25 and runs all through the summer, provides lunches for those in need thanks to public donations.
The lunches typically consist of sandwiches, fruit and a baked treat, served every Thursday from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the church which is located at 140 Wineva Ave.
The program is part of a larger initiative, The Beach Interfaith Lunch Program, which takes place at different church locations in East Toronto throughout the week. The drop-in lunches provide nutritious meals for low-income earners and those experiencing homelessness.
Along with Thursday’s offerings from Beach United Church, community members in need also have access to Corpus Christi Catholic Church’s (16 Lockwood Rd..) meals on Mondays; St. Nicholas Anglican Church (1512 Kingston Rd.) and St. Aidan’s Anglican Church (2423 Queen St. E.) on alternate Tuesdays; Beaches Hebrew Institute (109 Kenilworth Ave.) on Wednesdays; and Kingston Road United Church (975 Kingston Rd.) on Fridays. All programs run from October to May.
Although the Interfaith Lunch Program doesn’t run year-round, Beach United independently continues to provide support with help from local businesses such as Mehfill Indian Cuisine.
Other businesses providing support for the program include Mauser Packaging Solutions which donates food grade containers for large batch preparation of soup and stew; COBS Bread Bakery (1975 Queen St. E.) which provides bread for sandwiches; and Starbucks (1960 Queen St. E.) which provides coffee.
Anyone who would like more information, or to show support to the meal program by making a financial donation, is asked to visit https://beachunitedchurch.com/donate-now.
— 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.