Rosemarie Legault: “I like giving back to the community.”

by | May 1, 2024 | Community, Hunger Relief

Rosemarie Legault is stacking broccoli on a shelf, her head tilting to make sure the rows of vegetables stay straight and sturdy. Soon the Parkdale Food Pantry will open and someone will bring home that head of broccoli to turn it into a hearty stir-fry. She beams as she’s picturing it.  

Since 2012, Rosemarie has been a client and a volunteer at Parkdale Community Food Bank, a non-profit partner in Second Harvest’s network in the GTA. A health condition limits her ability to hold a steady full-time job, but it does not stop her from helping out as much as she can.  

“I like giving back to the community,” she said.  

Together with other volunteer leads, Rosemarie oversees a team of 200 members and growing. When she’s not at home with her husband and daughter, you can find her at the food bank, dashing in and out, making sure the food is properly stored and the warehouse clean and organized. Her infectious energy and crisp laugh keep the team in good spirits and the clients at ease.  

“Between home and the food bank, that’s been my life for the last 12 years,” she said.  

She treats the food bank like one of her own children, crying when reminiscing about its development over the years and the support it gets from donors.  

In 2016, Rosemarie received the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers from the Governor General for her active involvement in the food bank’s operations after a former director stepped down — she did everything from managing client intake to moving inventory to handling administration matters. It’s one of her proudest and most memorable achievements.  

Second Harvest supports Parkdale Community Food Bank’s drop-in and delivery programs. When Rosemarie first started, she recalled serving about 200 individuals a day. This number now balloons to about 600, including seniors, students, and, more recently, those who need a little extra to tide them over before the next paycheck. 

“It’s insane. Food almost goes out as soon as it comes in,” she said. “Food banks are only supposed to be an emergency thing. And now they’re like a normal grocery store.” 

In response to the need, the team extends the food bank’s operation hours, but occasionally has to close early when food runs out. Protein-rich ingredients like milk, eggs and yogurt are in high demand, and fresh produce Second Harvest provides like broccoli, cabbage and strawberries are always cherished.  

Rosemarie strives to keep the food bank stocked with options to accommodate different dietary restrictions. Since donations vary daily and weekly, this can be a planning and creative challenge, which she readily accepts. What drives her every day is “seeing the smiles on people’s faces when they can come here and get healthy stuff that they can’t afford anywhere else.”  

As the food bank opens for the day and its clients start trickling in, Rosemarie stands back and observes if anyone needs help. In a few hours when her shift ends, she’ll pick up some cabbage to make a soup with potatoes and carrots for her family, and probably share it with some seniors in her building too.  

“I love what I do,” she said. 

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