Food bank pleads for Toronto churches' support

  • May 15, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - There happens to be a recession going on and the Toronto Area Interfaith Council thinks the city’s churches, mosques, synagogues and temples ought to be doing something about it.

At the third annual TAIC breakfast with Toronto’s mayor, the interfaith council unveiled a program to encourage faith communities to collect food for food banks and to open pathways to employment, social services and housing through the 211 system.

In the last three months there’s been a 15-per-cent increase in food bank traffic, Daily Bread Food Bank executive director Gail Nyberg told the representatives of dozens of faiths active in Toronto. That translates into 6,000 extra visits per month. Nyberg doesn’t expect the numbers to decrease.

“I’m asking you to step up to the plate even further,” Nyberg said. “Once again, it will be with your help that we get through this.”

Daily Bread’s seven trucks are on the road full time and the logistics of getting food from collection points to various local food banks is a major challenge, but Nyberg assured faith leaders that if they set up a barrel in the front door of the church Daily Bread will make sure somebody collects the food.

Whether it’s the chronic homeless in the neighbourhood or people at the rectory door who have just lost their jobs, putting people in touch with social services, housing help, counselling and employment services has become much easier in recent years because of the 211 system, said Toronto’s 211 executive director Bill Morris. Whether dialing 211 or going on the web site, faith communities can find services for the homeless, the unemployed, seniors, youth, people in crisis, etc.

By concentrating TAIC’s plans on practical things faith communities can do in a recession it is seeking to include all of Toronto’s diverse religious organizations in the life of the city, TAIC president Fr. Damian MacPherson told The Catholic Register.

“By concentrating on food, I think it’s like music. It just crosses boundaries,” he said.

If the faiths can act together in response to the recession it could turn into a real “Toronto blessing,” MacPherson told the breakfast meeting. “A common word for the common good has been spoken among us.”

Religious differences melt away when it comes to the role faith communities can play in their own communities, said Mayor David Miller.

Miller promoted Toronto’s Transit City plans designed to connect the city’s poorer neighbourhoods in the inner suburbs to the city core.

“We think that’s about social justice,” he said.

Miller’s point man in relations with faith communities, mid-town Councillor Joe Mihevc, compared the challenge of the current recession to the Great Depression of the 1930s.

“What happened in the 1930s when we faced this kind of recession was that the faith communities were in the front lines,” he said.

While religious communities have always had a role to play in delivering services to the poor, at times like these faith communities need to also advocate for social justice, said the counsellor with a PhD in theology from the University of St. Michael’s College.

“Faith communities and cities have a real common agenda,” he said.

To find out how to collect food for the Daily Bread Food Bank e-mail Davinder Dhanoa at

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