Nov. 28 marked the fourth anniversary of the Avenue Road Food Bank’s opening day in 2018. With support from the Church of the Messiah and generous donors, the volunteer team has been providing hospitality and nourishing food once a week to Toronto residents who face food insecurity due to rising costs, unaffordable housing, poverty, unemployment or mental or physical health challenges. An increasing number of immigrants and refugees are coming to our doors.
When the pandemic lockdown started in March 2020, the food bank leadership, in cooperation with the church leadership, made the decision to remain open so that guests would not go hungry. The shopping and market model changed to a hamper handed out at the church door or by delivery. While other food banks were forced to close, the Avenue Road Food Bank continued to stay open until this March, when it converted back to the shopping and market model, and we welcomed our guests back into the church building.
Throughout these challenges, our volunteers remained loyal, hard-working and dedicated. Our guests tell us that they value not just the food they receive but also the kindness and respect they are shown. We greet them by name, we listen to their stories, we share hospitality by giving them water, sandwiches and sweets as they wait in line to enter our market, located in the nave of the church. We are currently seeing more 300 households at our doors, with new registrations every week.
The Daily Bread Food Bank, one of our partners, nominated the Avenue Road Food Bank as a finalist for its 2022 Outstanding Food Program Award, as part of its Best in Class Awards. This award “recognizes a community food agency in Toronto that has made significant efforts to implement best practises to provide services to clients with choice, dignity, and respect. The Outstanding Food Program embodies inclusivity with a volunteer cohort reflecting the community they serve, and actively creates a welcoming and supportive environment for clients.”
The Avenue Road Food Bank has also been recognized for its contribution to the local community, in its attempts to ease the burdens of its guests. It received the Annex Association’s 2022 Community Builder Award “for the exceptional dedication of its staff and volunteers in safely ensuring no one in our community had to go hungry during the pandemic.” The office of Jessica Bell, MPP, University-Rosedale, gave the Avenue Road Food Bank her 2022 Community Leadership Award “for working to improve the lives of those in our community.”
Submitted by Liz Gilbert