On this day last year, March 17, 2020, Feed Ontario launched our COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund and began quickly adapting to support food banks and people facing hunger in what was to become the biggest crisis we’ve responded to, to date.
At the time, we thought the province-wide lockdown amidst a global pandemic would only last for a few weeks, and that we would be back to “normal” in a matter of months.
We don’t need to tell you how wrong we were.
Throughout this challenging year, we’ve been reminded over and over again of two incredible things: firstly, that Ontario’s food banks are truly resilient and dedicated to our communities, and secondly, that Ontarians are incredibly generous and committed to helping each other.
Despite the challenges, with the support of our amazing network of food banks, partners, and supporters, together, we have achieved some incredible things as we continued to Feed Ontario.
Adapting services to meet growing need
Even prior to the pandemic, food bank use in Ontario was on the rise, with 537,000 individuals making more than 3 million visits in 2019. In the first three months of the provincial lockdown alone, there was 26% increase in the number of people and families visiting a food bank for the first time.
Meeting this growing need with additional health and safety requirements such as physical distancing demonstrated the Ontario food bank network’s adaptability, and lead to innovative new programs and service models, including drive through food banks, home delivery, and an online appointment system.
During the spring, Feed Ontario developed the COVID-19 Emergency Food Box Program which provided food banks across the province with pre-packed boxes containing a week’s worth of food staples for an individual. This helped food banks safely distribute 8.2 million days worth of food while maintaining physical distancing guidelines for staff, volunteers, and clients.
In the fall, Feed Ontario launched the Feeding Possibility and Efficiency Improvement grant programs to help food banks invest in programs and systems that improve their service to communities. Through these grants, we invested $745,830 into 27 food banks to help better serve communities.
Serving 23 million meals
As the need in communities rose and supply chain pressures and changes to public food drives made it harder for food banks to source food locally, Feed Ontario quickly transitioned from an important food support helping to fill gaps in the food bank network, to a core food source.
In addition to our regular fresh food programs, our food donation programs, and the COVID-19 Emergency Food Box Program, in the fall, Feed Ontario also launched our new Full Shelves program. Through Full Shelves we distributed core food staples and PPE to food banks throughout Ontario.
Thankfully, our food and transportation partners were there to help us to quickly scale up to meet the growing need. With their support, in the last year we delivered more than 28 million pounds of food.
That’s the equivalent of 23 million meals.
Supporting communities with your help
None of these achievements would have been possible without the incredible support of our partners and donors! Over the last year, as the needs of our food banks and communities have grown, so to has the generosity of individuals and organization across the province who have joined us to Feed Ontario.
In the last 12 months, individuals have collectively donated the equivalent of more than 3 million meals to help Feed Ontario. This has been further supported by hundreds of organizations, including our COVID-19 Emergency Response partners, the provincial and federal governments, and Food Banks Canada.
Communities across Ontario also continued to support us as we advocated for evidence-based solutions to poverty so that one day, our services will no longer be needed.
Thank you so much to everyone who has joined us in this challenging year to Feed Ontario!
The initial response to COVID-19 was a success! But our neighbours and communities continue to need our united support to help ensure no one goes hungry during the challenging times ahead.
Our past experience in helping communities manage and overcome crises (including natural disasters, community emergencies, and recessions) tells us that people and communities will feel the rippling effects of this pandemic for years to come. But our emergency response has shown us the resiliency of our food banks and our province.
And just as food banks will continue to be there to support their communities, we’ll be there to continue to support them.
If you would like to be part of our ongoing work to provide vital support to food banks and communities, donate now or contact us to learn how your organization can partner with Feed Ontario.