The gift of food

As 2017 neared its end, we at FoodShare Toronto were beginning to think about our holiday shut down and wrapping things up for the year. But for the third year in a row, we received an incredible call informing us of a gift that an individual, anonymous donor was making through the United Way.

In late November, we were told that we would receive $50,000 to spend on 2,000 Good Food Boxes to be distributed, through our networks, to families just in time for the holiday season. What an amazing, nourishing, purposeful gift. Two thousand families who might otherwise not have access to fresh, nutritious food for the holidays would now receive a bounty of fresh vegetables and fruit – even holiday favourites like cranberries! We couldn’t imagine a gift that could be more meaningful or money better spent.

We quickly contacted partner agencies, who reached out to their networks and identified 2,000 community members who would benefit from the donation. The wheels of the Good Food Program began to turn. Boxes were ordered, food was sourced and labels made. When our regular volunteers heard the news, every one of them agreed to come on short notice to support two full days of packing. And what wonderful days they were.

“The blessing of fresh cranberries, pineapple, kiwi,leafy greens, potatoes and more made my Christmas special at a time when I needed fresh food the most. Thank you,” says Robert, The Compass, Mississauga, ON.

The spirit of giving filled the warehouse as we pulled together to pack a box full to the brim with delicious, fresh food. When ordering, we considered everything from staples to treats – potato to pineapple. As a gift from FoodShare, every box contained recipes to support the cooking folks would do when they received the food. It was our hope that at least 4 to 5 meals for a family of four could be made from the contents of the box plus an array of fruits to be enjoyed over the season.

In the spirit of the generosity of the gift, we approached all of our produce suppliers, from local farmers to the Ontario Food Terminal. Everyone discounted their services as well as they could. The good news gift impacted everyone we dealt with.

Over 30 volunteers and staff worked for two full days so that our team of drivers could journey across the city to deliver boxes to the waiting agencies. By December 23, every box was delivered. The response from every agency and all the recipients was immediate and overwhelming.

As a result of the gift, we developed and strengthened relationships with partner agencies like the Rexdale Women’s Centre and The Compass. These organizations work with low income families, those in need and newcomers, including refugees.

This generous gift touched the lives of thousands of people. We thank the donor and the United Way Toronto & York Region for igniting the spark that engaged our agency and produce partners, volunteers, staff and community members – so many people working together to make this amazing gift happen! It’s wonderful to see what a dedicated network of people can do to improve food access for those who need it most.

Box contents included a 3lb bag of apples, a bunch of bananas, a green cabbage, a bag of carrots, a bag of fresh cranberries, a bag of cut garden salad with dressing, a bag of onions, five oranges, a pineapple and a 10lb bag of potatoes. With 2000 boxes in total, this meant 59,655 lbs of fresh produce were shared.

People line up to receive Good Food Boxes from a FoodShare vehicle

“My name is Paula and I have diabetes. The vegetables that I received for the holiday meant a lot to me. I was able to use the vegetables at an advantage because my sickness requires it a whole lot, thanks to you all for the benefits received at Christmas. May you always give to us and others. God Bless.” Paula, Unison HCS.

People stand smiling beside a delivery of Good Food Boxes

“What a true blessing. The timely receipt of the fresh produce helped our family enormously. With many mouths to feed, the wonderful fruits and vegetables made our Christmas dinner complete and truly enjoyable.” Client, The Anglican Church of St Mary and St Martha.

Person hugs a bag of apples smiling

“The staff held a winter solstice gathering on Dec. 21st where the food boxes and other gifts were handed out to clients and it was an amazing event with lots of laughter, joy and smiles all around.” Jannies, Anduhyaun.

A family smiles standing by a Good Food Box

“Thank you so much for taking the time to go beyond for the people in our community, it’s really awesome to know there is a place that cares a lot for others/us and our community. We really appreciate the good food box, it makes this holiday season special and joyful. Thank you for all that took the time to actually put the box together and find our community to be one of give it away.” Antonia & Samuel, Progress Place.

Person stands by a Good Food Box, smiling

“Many thanks for your blessed contribution of fruits and vegetables over the holiday period. This was very much appreciated by our community as you have brought nourishment to so many with beautiful freshness, which we rarely receive.” Fatima, Unison HCS.

Person picks up a Good Food Box from a table

Just wanted to thank you for such a nice “goodie” box. He was in need of everything placed in the box. You people have sure helped him a lot. It’s nice to know in our world, that there are such people as yourselves. Please give our delivery driver a special hug. They make our world a little better.” Client, Syme-Woolner Neighbourhood & Family Centre.

Person stands smiling

“Thank you for the generous donation of fresh fruit and vegetables to our organization during the holiday season, these items were very well appreciated and received. It has made a huge and lasting impression in the lives and well-being of our clients, and has contributed immensely towards the health of our clients as we service a marginalized community.Thanks once again and best regards.” Admin & Adult Services, Syme-Woolner Neighbourhood & Family Centre.

Two people hug

“Wow, it’s a lot. I am going to share it with my neighbour. She helps me sometimes. I want to give something to her.” Client, Learning Enrichment Foundation.

Two people smile, one holds a pineapple

“Thank you very much for the generous donation, we were able to deliver all 40 boxes, with more requested from participants! The boxes are very much appreciated and in growing demand; last year we had 30, this past year 40, and as our services are becoming increasingly popular (needed), we are hoping to collaborate to receive more boxes in the 2018 Christmas season.” Sophie, Mount Dennis Neighbourhood Centre.

Person smiles holding a head of lettuce

“We are so grateful for your generous donation as were our families, the food boxes made a huge impact on them and the additional support was very much appreciated.” Janice, Boys & Girls Club East Scarborough.

Person smiles, receiving a Good Food Box

“I’m going to add these wonderful healthy fruits and veggies to the other foods I have, and I’m going to make the best Christmas meal I’ve ever made! Thank you so much to your agency.” Client, Reconnect Community Health Services.

Two people hold hands in embrace

“Our clients really appreciated receiving the beautiful fruits and vegetables, especially right before Christmas. I also appreciate being able to provide clients with wholesome nutritious foods in such a well-packaged and thoughtful way. We have received the Good Food boxes the last three years and it has truly been wonderful to have the opportunity to provide our clients with the fruits and vegetables.” Christine, ACSA Food Bank, Dorset Park HUB.

Person performs "peace sign" standing by a set of Good Food Boxes