Food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic: how you can help


Food insecurity is complex. It’s more than geographic and economic barriers to food access.

As the world continues to navigate through this unprecedented time in history due to the COVID-19 pandemic, those at risk of not having enough food are left even more vulnerable.

FoodShare Toronto is a registered Canadian charity and Canada’s largest food justice organization leader in food security locally and globally. A leader in the food movement since 1985, FoodShare works to dismantle oppressive structures that hold poverty and food insecurity in place. To that end, they collaborate with and take their cue from those most affected by poverty and food insecurity – Black, Indigenous, People of Colour and people with disabilities.

FoodShare advocates for bold public policy interventions, offers innovative food education and nutrition programs and increases access to fresh, nutritious food. They believe everyone has the right to affordable, fresh, nutritious food and champion the power of good food to bring people together and build community. They do this by:

  • Serving over 30,000 Torontonians facing barriers to food access such as low income or living with a disability by supporting affordable fresh produce markets in over 50 priority neighbourhoods
  • Supporting 48 community growing projects, including the Sunshine Garden for clients at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, which aims to build hope, recovery and resilience in participants and foster new, transferable skills while breaking down the stigma surrounding mental illness
  • Offering a paid agricultural training opportunity to 27 youth where they learn skills in organic farming while earning school credit towards completing their high school diplomas. Youth enrolled in School Grown also have opportunities to cook with professional chefs, run a weekly produce market and run a compost exchange where members of the local community can trade their organic waste for just-harvested produce
  • Reaching over 200,000 children and youth in schools through facilitating fun, hands-on food workshops and healthy meals and snacks programs across the city

In light of the current COVID-19 crisis, FoodShare has turned their focus to address the urgent access gaps in our food system. On March 17, they launched their Emergency Good Food Box initiative. Since then, FoodShare has delivered thousands of free, fresh food boxes directly to the homes of individuals and families who need it most. Their response is city wide and focused on priority neighbourhoods and populations, especially targeting groups such as:

  • Those living on low income who are precariously employed / unemployed and cannot afford to stockpile groceries even before this crisis
  • People with disabilities, who are socially isolated, have mental health challenges or are living in transitional housing
  • Senior citizens living on fixed income, who may have health conditions and are at heightened risk of contracting the virus
  • Children who benefit from school nutrition programs and are now at risk of going without meals

Read more: What is proper nutrition for kids, really?

One of the ways FoodShare works to build long-lasting systems change across the food system is through collaborations through organizations such as PROOF, an interdisciplinary research program investigating household food insecurity in Canada. In October 2019, FoodShare launched a conference on Advancing Food Justice and Equity where they shared the results of a groundbreaking PROOF study looking at the correlation between race and household food insecurity. For the first time in Canada, there is data that shows the concrete link between race and food insecurity – black Canadian households are more than twice as likely to experience food insecurity than white Canadian households.

A study released in March from PROOF found that one in eight households (4.4 million people) across the country is food insecure. This number does not include people living in Indigenous communities, people in some remote northern areas, or people who are homeless – i.e., three groups at high risk of food insecurity.

The study also found that food insecurity is more common among households with children than those without. In fact, 17% of children under 18 (more than 1 in 6), lived in a family that experienced food insecurity. The families most at risk were those headed by lone-parent women; one-third were food-insecure.

Read more: Kids nutrition is nutrition for life

While food insecurity was already trending in the wrong direction prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are ways each of us can support those most in need. Suggestions from FoodShare Toronto include:

  • Monthly Giving. Contribute to a monthly pre-authorized deduction from your bank account or credit card. Access the donation form here.
  • One-Time Donations. Support FoodShare with a one-time gift in support of their work, such as the FoodShare Emergency Good Food Box (COVID-19).
  • Purchase a Good Food Box. With more people opting to stay at home to observe physical distancing, FoodShare’s Good Food Box fresh food delivery service has never been more popular! For the month of April, they are even waiving the delivery fee so that it’s more affordable and convenient than ever to get high quality fresh food straight to someone’s door. You can feel good knowing that all proceeds go right back into supporting Foodshare’s community initiatives. Purchase a Good Food Box, here.
  • Planned Giving. You can arrange to leave FoodShare a bequest in your will with Gifts of Cash, Gifts of Assets (real estate, stocks, bonds) or Gifts of Life Insurance.

Read more: Kindness: The gift that gives back

FoodShare’s supporters make a difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people across Toronto by helping them pioneer, champion and share effective food programs every day.

Now, more than ever, continued community support is needed to ensure everyone has the right to healthy food. While we might be forced to physically stay apart during the COVID-19 pandemic, we can still make a difference by acting in each other’s best interests.

We are stronger, together.