Recently we were engaged by a client who wished to make the first of a three-year commitment targeted to food security. Our job was to investigate and uncover qualified direct service providers operating high impact programs for consideration.
Work with the client began by defining the criteria to drive the investigation of options that would meet their objective. We identified over a dozen high impact programs and provided a detailed Impact Report to our client. The report stimulated further discussion and the criteria was refined to consider only programs that would directly “put food in children’s tummies.”
While most of the programs that we investigated had a component of assistance for children, our attention was to high impact programs focused specifically on children at risk. We then undertook a deep dive, investigating more than 100 agencies and programs, culminating in a report that was the basis of the decision to divide this year’s gift among 3 different programs. Part of the process will be to review interim reports by the recipients that will substantiate how the gift made a meaningful and lasting impact.
What We Found
Food security affects every segment of the community and age demographic. As is reported daily, providing reliable access to sufficient affordable, nutritious food is becoming more and more difficult. Higher prices and economic challenges are taking an ever-increasing toll on the ability of individuals and families to adequately provide for basic needs. Those in need are often struggling quietly, living in homes and apartments in our own neighbourhoods.
The statistics are staggering. According to:
Statistics Canada and PROOF*(2021):
- 4 million or 1 in 5 Canadian children lived in a household that experienced some level of food insecurity.
- In Ontario 20.6% of children under 18 lived in food-insecure households.
- 25% of Canadians report eating less than they should be due to rising prices for food.
City of Toronto Statistics:
- Food insecurity affects almost 1 in 5 Toronto households (18.5 per cent) and is a serious public health issue because it is closely linked to negative health outcomes.
- Food costs were 8.8% more expensive this past summer compared to the prior year.
- High food costs and increased demand due to inflation have had a huge negative impact on food banks.
United Way of Greater Toronto:
- 8% of children live below the poverty line; live in food insecure households.
Children are at Risk
Hundreds of organizations throughout the city of Toronto and throughout Canada face the challenge of food security head-on. We found that most organizations run their food-related programs together with support activities for children and/or families. As part of their programming, they teach people how to make healthy eating choices, and provide mental health and life skills to help people face day-to-day social, emotional, and familial challenges. Some providers also provide clothing, shoes and boots, and winter coats. Some provide snacks or run cooking programs for children and youth as part of after-school programming.
In addition to central agencies who raise and distribute funds to a network of organizations like United Way, Mazon Canada or UJA Federation, survival for these programs is thanks to a combination of government-funded programs, corporate sponsorships, and most importantly private donations. We found that without gifts from everyday people, all programs would be hard-pressed to continue.
Food security providers offer the following services:
- Food banks (North York Harvest, The Stop, Chasdei Kaduri)
- Gift card distribution (Houses of Worship, JF&CS)
- Hot food preparation and distribution (St. Luke’s United Church, 5N2, Out of the Cold)
- Provision of food and supports for youth and families (Tomchei Shabbos)
- Food rescue (Second Harvest)
- School food programs (Toronto Foundation for Student Success, Breakfast Clubs of Canada)
- Social programs for youth (Front Lines Toronto, Boys and Girls Clubs)
- Advocacy and educational programs to address barriers to access (FoodShare, Afri-Can FoodBasket)
Of Particular Note
Within the network of outstanding providers, we offer information on several unique organizations having immediate need to sustain their work for individuals and families throughout the community.
A community based, neighbourhood project operating a Food Pantry, Hot Meal preparation and distribution of lunches, snacks, and drinks to children in high need areas. Immediate Need: Funds to purchase food preparation equipment to cook and deliver up to 300 meals per week. For more information https://5n2.ca.
St. Luke’s United Church
Downtown Toronto based, hot meal preparation and distribution to 300 homeless and hungry, 2 nights per week. Collaborative with other faith-based organizations, run by Rev. Jim Keenan. People are connected to other safe living programs and human services. Immediate Need: Funds to purchase food to sustain the program especially during winter months. For more information, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Targets families often hidden within the Jewish community. Weekly distribution of food boxes for 225 families and as many as 1000 children. Works to move people to independence and provides emergency support and connections to professional social service and mental health providers. Immediate Need: Funds for purchase of basic food as well as “luxury items” such as tuna fish. For more information, https://rfro.org.
Toronto Foundation for Student Success
School nutrition and after school programs delivered at schools in high poverty/high risk areas of the city. Through network of providers, TFSS receives food donations or low-cost bulk purchase options and provide emergency support to families in crisis. Immediate Need: Funds for B330 after-school program to teach healthy eating while students prepare and eating a nutritious meal. For more information, https://tfss.ca.
Values to Action
Support is needed for the network of agencies and organizations on the front lines of the battle for food security. There are many options, and we encourage you to explore and support programs that are meaningful and impactful for you and your community. By using your personal values to drive your philanthropy, you will be making a significant difference in the community.
*PROOF is an interdisciplinary research program studying effective policy approaches to reduce household food insecurity in Canada.
For more information on how you can unlock your passion and be strategic and organized with your charitable giving, visit us at rd-philanthropy.com or call us at 416-993-6746.