Toronto initiative delivers food to families in need, teaches children kitchen skills
TORONTO -- An eight-week fall food program is keeping organizers and volunteers busy each week at St. Philip's Lutheran Church in Etobicoke.
“We will be delivering fresh produce, goodie bags, grocery gift cards and fresh bread to 75 families,” Eunice Hogeveen, the project coordinator of ‘The Neighbourhood Table,’ told CTV news Toronto.
Once a week, volunteers help assemble packages, including fresh produce, and make the deliveries by car to the families in need.
In addition to providing the food, the program also offers a workshop to teach children skills in the kitchen.
“We started this in an in-person … classroom particularly geared at kids six to 12 years old and teaching them about nutritious eating and preparing food themselves,” Hogeveen said.
“There’s going to be a workshop on using root vegetables to make a healthy soup. Food waste, how can you use the carrot tops and make a pesto out of your carrot tops.”
“Food literacy and food skills is really a big part of what we’re hoping to do,” she adds.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, the program pivoted to an online format called ‘Neighbourhood Table at Home.’
“We have moved, like everything else, to ZOOM,” Hogeveen adds.
The program first began as a way to combat food insecurity in the Etobicoke area.
“I think it’s a tough time for people on many different levels,” volunteer Wendy Kearns said. “Food insecurity is certainly a big one, and a essential one.”
“We discovered that it’s families with kids that are most vulnerable,” Hogeveen said. “[Neighbourhood Table] started as wanting to do something more as a community.”
The program works with partners, including the Arab Community Centre of Toronto and Polycultural, to reach the families in need.
“We are lucky to have partnership with St. Phillip's. It is amazing what they are doing,” Salma Abubaker, youth settlement worker with the Arab Community Centre of Toronto, said. “We have a lot of appreciation and comments from our clients saying thank you, thank you, thank you.”
In August, the Neighbourhood Table received the emergency community support fund, administered through the United Way. Hogeveen said that’s the primary funder for the program, but that a smaller funder called World Renew has also contributed.
Volunteers say they are proud to be a part of the program.
“We all need to open our eyes to what is going on in our communities,” volunteer Doug Kearns said. “I don’t remember this 20 years ago or even 15 years ago. I don’t remember food insecurity being an issue the way it is today.”
“It feels good to help,” adds Wendy Kearns. “And I think that is our mandate - to help others.”