From left, Aklilu Wendaferew, executive director of Good Shepherd Ministries, Archbishop Francis Leo and The Good Shepherd’s Br. David Lynch announce a $520,000 commitment to fight food insecurity. Photo by Julius Pe Benito/Archdiocese of Toronto

ShareLife commits $520,000 to fight hunger

  • September 14, 2023

“We are at a breaking point.”

“Demand for food banks reach record high levels.”

“I’ve worked my whole life and I can’t afford food.”

Disquieting headlines about the state of household food security have unrelentingly flooded the Canadian news media ecosystem in recent months.

As Canadian legendary singer Anne Murray first crooned in 1983, “we sure could use a little good news today.”

Enter ShareLife.

On Sept. 6, the annual charitable appeal of the Archdiocese of Toronto announced a supplemental commitment of $520,000 for the fight against hunger in Ontario through food security grants.

“Everyone on our ShareLife advisory board is seeing the situation in society,” said Arthur Peters, the executive director of ShareLife and the archdiocese’s director of development. “Many people are turning to food banks and meal programs for help. The price of food has gone up significantly. The board recognizes this and wants to contribute to support the parishes and agencies that are trying so hard to help people in need.”

Fr. Francis Salasiar said this support would be a boon for the food bank at St. Ann’s Parish in Toronto, which draws an average of around 330 clients a week.

“Demand has increased quite a bit,” said Salasiar. “We have recently had a lot of Ukrainian immigrants and young people come here. Any dollars extra would be wonderful. We are a downtown parish. We don’t have that much cushion to operate. This would be a wonderful opportunity.”

According to Statistics Canada in May, 18.4 per cent of Canadians in 2022 lived in food-insecure households, approximately 6.9 million individuals. Ontarians comprise 2.83 million of that projected total. Those numbers are up more than one million from the previous year.

“It is heart-wrenching and unacceptable that anyone in our city today lacks access to food which is a most basic human right,” said Toronto Archbishop Francis Leo. “Our parishioners are taking action in response to the Lord’s call to feed the hungry. Since the earliest days of the Catholic community in the Archdiocese of Toronto, the faithful have cared for those in need, on the margins of society and we continue this life-giving legacy.”

This financial aid consists of $250,000 in new funding to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Toronto Central Council, which will distribute the money to parish-based food banks and meal programs. Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Toronto received $150,000 in new funding, which will go to agency-run food programs. The remaining $120,000 is money that was already apportioned for food-related programs operated by ShareLife member agencies.

Louise Coutu, executive director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Toronto Central Council, and Dr. Agnes Thomas, executive director of Catholic Charities, stressed the need for funds and expressed a passion to support ShareLife’s initiative.

“We see our neighbours in need increasingly struggle with food insecurity,” said Coutu. “As part of our mission of ‘turning concern into action,’ we are ready to assist with the expansion of parish-based food and meal programs through this bold initiative.”

Thomas said: “Those in hunger cannot wait for the systemic causes of food insecurity to be solved before we take action. By working with member agencies and other partners already on the ground, we are making an immediate impact in the lives of the most vulnerable.”

Participating in this cause is an unprecedented step for Catholic Charities.

“Historically, Catholic Charities does not provide funding directly to food banks, community kitchens, local food organizations or food/hunger relief activities,” stated the organization in the food security grant application form. “While Catholic Charities believes that the right to food is a fundamental human right that the government is responsible for, we recognize the persistent food insecurity crisis exacerbated by the pandemic and acknowledge the invaluable contributions of food banks and other food organizations have made to alleviate hunger and food insecurity, particularly among the impoverished, marginalized and vulnerable individuals and groups in the community.”

Agencies interested in funding will have to apply by Sept. 29. Applications are mandated to include essential organizational information, specific details about a plan or program designed to tackle food insecurity and an itemized budget.

Parishes have until Sept. 30 to apply for funding.

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