It goes without saying that this has been a challenging year. But despite all that we’ve faced, we continue to see neighbours and communities helping each other like never before. Food banks, in particular, have seen an incredible outpouring of support from the community.

It’s in this spirit that throughout December we’re celebrating a #MonthOfGratitude. We want to express how thankful we are for the many ways that Ontarians came together during this time of crisis.

In no particular order, this year, we were grateful for…

1. The dedication of food bankers

“People who operate food banks are the most committed people I know. On a regular basis, they do so much with so little. And they’re stepping up to the plate again.”

Carolyn Stewart, Feed Ontario Executive Director, March 2020

These words have proven true many times over this year.

Declared essential by the provincial government, food banks have remained open throughout the pandemic. Their staff and volunteers have been on the frontlines, working incredibly hard to continue to serve those who needed it most, despite the many challenges that arose. Their hard work, tireless commitment, and ongoing dedication is a constant inspiration.

2. Advocates working towards a better tomorrow

The pandemic revealed many of the already-existing cracks in our social safety-net and province. Many of the people who are getting sick and taking the hardest financial hits are disproportionately those who were already struggling. In response, people have mobilized to push for increased income supports to help mitigate the impact of the pandemic, taken action against systemic racism, and called for solutions that address poverty and systemic inequalities in our province and country.

While food banks do incredible work to support their communities, we know this is not a solution to hunger. Ontario needs bigger, bolder solutions to turn the tide on steadily increasing food bank use. Every person who dares to dream of a better world and joins the fight for change helps get closer to ending poverty and hunger in Ontario.

3. Artists sharing their talents with food banks

We saw a lot of Canada’s stars lend their talents to raising money for food banks this year. This included Ed from the Barenaked Ladies’ Facebook show, Schitt’s Creek Gives Back, The Arkells’ Flatten the Curve music class, and the incredible Stronger Together special that raised over $8 million for emergency hunger relief. Artists across the province came together to share their talents and support their neighbours with comedy shows, trivia nights, crafts, cookbooks, and so much more. Though theatres went dark, we realized more than ever the importance of the arts, which served as a beacon of hope to carry us through hard times.

4. Government supports that prevented catastrophe for many people and families (we’re so grateful, we want to see more!)

When the lockdown was first declared in March, food banks saw a surge in use as more people turned to them for support. Government interventions, like CERB and the moratorium on evictions, helped to flatten this curve and prevent thousands of people from facing a financial catastrophe or even losing their homes.

Unfortunately, most of these programs have ended and food bank use is back on the rise. As we navigate the second wave, let’s not forget the role that government supports play in helping so many people meet their basic needs and how important it is to keep people safe this winter.

5. The power of the people

When we say “every little bit counts,” we mean it. This year, more than 2,700 new donors joined us at the table, from all corners of the province. People found ways to come together with friends, family, co-workers, and classmates by starting more than 170 fundraisers. This included a paramedic who shaved his head to raise $10,000! Link opens a new window

You gave whatever you could, in many different ways, and it amounted to an incredible 2.5 MILLION MEALS!

6. Mutual aid and communities that care

In our Hunger Report 2020, we noted that grassroots initiatives played a significant role in supporting people in need across the province.  In partnership with the local food bank, community groups and volunteers worked tirelessly to provide grocery gift cards, prepared meals, deliver food boxes, and ensure that no one went without. Whether you chose to help your neighbours get through this crisis through formal organizations or informal efforts, the commitment of Ontarians to helping each other is incredible.

7. The businesses that stepped up

We were heartwarmed by the countless Ontario businesses who rallied with their customers, employees, and partners to help Feed Ontario. In particular, we’d like to highlight the efforts of Metro Ontario and the LCBO. Metro Ontario raised funds through their ‘Together We Care’ and ‘Locally Sourced’ campaigns. They also continued to support food banks through the One More Bite retail food recovery program. The LCBO, supported by their employees and customers, raised over $3 million to support hunger relief in Ontario, including $1.1 million for Feed Ontario – or the equivalent of 3.3 million meals!

8. Our Emergency Food Box Program supporters

The beginning of the pandemic created  a “perfect storm” for food banks: a surge in need, a shortage of volunteers, trouble acquiring food locally, and the need to adapt operations in real time in order to meet physical distancing measures. Feed Ontario developed an ambitious plan to help address many of these challenges, resulting in the creation of our Emergency Food Box Program. With the support and generosity of people and organizations across Ontario, we pre-packed and shipped over 400,000 emergency food boxes to help people and families in need. It was only possible because of you!

9. Our food partners who help keep food bank shelves & fridges stocked

The amount of nutritious food that we distributed through the provincial food bank network this year was nothing short of astonishing. With the support of our partners, we were able to provide essential grocery items like milk, eggs, meat, fruit, vegetables, and pantry items, such as rice and cereal, to people and families in need.

This was only possible because of the generosity of our new and returning food partners. They stepped up to the plate and helped us ensure that food bank shelves remained full.

10. Our transportation partners

The unsung heroes of the food bank network! Our transportation partners do so much to ensure that nutritious food makes it safely and securely to every corner of our vast province.  In particular, Erb Transportation carried 8.8 million pounds of food to food banks across Ontario this year! From Windsor to Ottawa to Thunder Bay, our transport partners play an essential role in our work. They deliver much-needed food, resources, and supplies to food banks so they have what they need to serve their community.

On behalf of Feed Ontario, we would like to thank you for your incredible support this year. We could not have done it without people and partners like you!

If you’d like to be part of this story of hope in a challenging year, support Feed Ontario here.