Natasha Bowes, Senior Manager of Philanthropy for Second Harvest, seen above with her family (second from right) recently had a chance to “walk the walk” and join her Second Harvest colleagues during a delivery day in December in honour of Giving Tuesday. It was an emotional experience for Natasha where she witnessed the human side of a food delivery in making a connection with those on the receiving end. Here’s her account of the experience.
Delivery Day with Hektor
Second Harvest rescues food and delivers it to community groups who feed people in need, but last week, I had the opportunity to experience it firsthand.
We began our day at the warehouse, the team began loading trucks and hustling through their morning routine when I arrived at 7 am. When the trucks were loaded, Hektor, delivery driver extraordinaire, as well as Corey our VP of Philanthropy, drove off in the truck and I followed close behind.
Our first delivery was at Across Boundaries. They take a holistic approach to mental health care but are also anchored in an anti-racist, anti-black racism and anti-oppression framework. The rescued food was welcomed with warm smiles and grateful hearts, one down, lots to go!
As we pulled up to a youth shelter, we noticed security guards around the building. We started to unload food when staff explained the need for heightened security due to the shooting that had just happened. I stood in shock for a minute, absorbing this and thinking of my children at home. We continued to unload fresh produce, and what resonated with me most was that these kids will have a warm and meal tonight thanks to our supporters.
Last year this youth shelter supported 136 youth in our community and continued to support over 100 former residents. So much of the need in our communities is unseen.
When the truck pulled up at another organization all you could hear was a man screaming “I want to die”, repeating it over and over at the top of his lungs. Someone came to him, helped him calm down and brought him inside. We continued with our food delivery.
By the entrance sat an adorable senior in her wheelchair with a light blanket covering her lap. We shared a kind smile as we unloaded the food and I noticed her toes peeking from out of her lap blanket, no socks or warm footwear on this cold morning.
She could be someone’s grandma, mom, or sister, and here she was waiting in line an hour early for food. Grocery hampers includes some dairy and protein, a bag of produce, supplied by Second Harvest and some non-perishable food items dropped off the day before from Daily Bread. By the time we finished our delivery, line already had over a dozen people in it. The demand for food has doubled in the past year, the pandemic is hitting our communities hard.
As we drove through the streets of the city that I’ve called home for almost 15 years, I began to see everything through a very different lens. There are boarded-up grocery stores, covered in graffiti, across the school from townhomes with a little playground nearby. Newly built million-dollar condos look over the park where a homeless man sleeps.
Every food drop was followed by immense gratitude from staff and volunteers who serve their communities. You could hear the happiness in their voices over fresh bananas or frozen meat. One lady jumped for joy!
Every week, these community organizations rely on a network of support to feed people in need. They rely on you, me, together, to ensure seniors can eat, or parents can feed themselves and their children. No one should have to choose between rent, hydro, medicine, or food.
It’s now the second-to-last stop of the day, Mothercraft – Breaking the Cycle, a program which serves pregnant and parenting women with substance-use problems, and their young children. We delivered fresh produce including blueberries and fresh bananas.
On the way out, I connected with a mom and her adorable son, Eliseo. His smile melted my heart! His mom thanked us for delivering this fresh produce and diapers for her and her son.
One last stop. I don’t know how Hektor does it day after day, squeezing into little alleys, navigating the busy city streets and fighting the traffic. He manages to park close to the door so it’s easy to unload. Hektor truly is the face of Second Harvest. Our other drivers, just like him do so much more than deliver food. He sees sorrow, hunger, grief, and illness every single day, yet he continues to be an ambassador and a beacon of light and hope with his deliveries.
The chef rushes out of the building, “Hektor! What do we have today?” Hektor smiles. “Oh, we have excellent food today!” Banana’s, Blueberries, Romaine Lettuce, Frozen chicken and produce and even little potatoes.
Hektor smiles and he unloads the last of the fresh carrots. The truck is empty, hundreds of pounds of food was successfully delivered today. Over the next hours and days, our partners will turn it into grocery hampers, prepared meals and nutritious meals served at community programs.
Food is much more than just nutrients, it’s a warm meal after a bad day. It’s a comfort we should all have access to, yet 1 in 5 Canadians don’t.
Looking to help out?
Reach out to your local grocery store and encourage them to sign up for the Second Harvest Food Rescue App, a few quick clicks and they can become a food donor! To get involved directly, we have tremendous opportunities to join as a volunteer. You can choose from volunteer opportunities in a variety of areas that can match your skills, interests and availability.