June 7, 2021

Our frontline team is connecting folks with fresh food

How Good Food Box deliveries increased tenfold in the wake of COVID-19

South of Lawrence just off Black Creek Drive on the aptly named Industry St. is an unassuming brown brick building with bright green letters that spell out “FoodShare”.

Looking at the outside of the organization’s headquarters, you might not guess that inside, there are pallets upon pallets of fresh cucumbers, potatoes, cauliflower, plantains, carrots, tiny little Norfolk apples and all kinds of other fruits and vegetables being packed into boxes to be delivered to thousands across Toronto each week.

FoodShare’s Good Food Box subscription service delivers fresh, affordable and culturally appropriate produce straight to your doorstep. By purchasing from the Good Food Box social enterprise, not only are customers able to stock their fridges with a variety of high quality produce—their purchase also helps support FoodShare’s food justice programming and initiatives across the city.

“At the beginning, our normal day—before the pandemic—was around 200-300 boxes per week being delivered door-to-door,” says Moorthi Senaratne, FoodShare’s Social Enterprise Manager in a video released this week of a behind-the-scenes tour of the FoodShare warehouse.

Then, in March of 2020, COVID-19 began to spread across the city and folks were stuck at home due to illness and job loss. Knowing those who’d already been facing food insecurity were going to struggle the most, FoodShare and partners began collaborating quickly to distribute boxes across Toronto at no cost to the recipients.

“Suddenly, with the pandemic, we jumped up to 4,000 boxes.” When asked how they managed to make it all happen Moorthi just smiles knowingly, “it was….” he pauses to think before concluding with an ironic grin “…fun.”

Moorthi and his warehouse and delivery team defined essential work during this pandemic. They were responsible for getting over 120,000 Emergency Good Food Boxes into trunks, onto bikes and to the doors of households facing food insecurity in 2020. 

Not only were they distributing emergency boxes, but the social enterprise continued to grow as more and more people opted for home delivery rather than shopping in-store during the pandemic.

The team was up for the challenge. “We went from two staff to around sixty staff, and we went from two drivers to ten drivers just within a couple of weeks,” Moorthi says. 

Ultimately, emergency food aid isn’t FoodShare’s core work—investing in community-led food solutions and advocating for income-based interventions to long term food insecurity are where the organization aims to put its time and resources. But in a global pandemic, it became important to act fast and support folks who systems most often leave behind including sex workers, undocumented folks and migrant agricultural workers.

Tina Lamarsh is a Customer Service Representative at FoodShare, helping to make sure everyone receives their boxes, and taking calls from folks sharing their feedback.  “It does feel really, really rewarding to know that I’m working at a place that does such good things for the city,” reflects Tina, who has heard from callers who say their whole face lit up when their box first arrived. 

Produce boxes have also been going out recently as ‘prescriptions’ of fruits and vegetables for those at an increased risk of COVID-19 through FoodShare’s partnership with University Hospital Network: Food Rx

Food is a right, and no one should be without it—in Toronto or anywhere else. 

WATCH: Get a 360 degree view of the FoodShare warehouse below.

This is the first in a series of four videos that will give you a behind-the-scenes look at FoodShare’s programming. Stay tuned for more!

Stock your fridge full of delicious produce (plus some tasty add-ons) and help support community-led food programming across Toronto: subscribe to FoodShare’s Good Food Box today.

Hungry for more? Check out this discussion on community-driven COVID-19 response featuring members from our Social Enterprise team.