Catching Up With Two Marathon Mavens

Catching Up With Two Marathon Mavens

The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon is back with an in-person 10K on October 17 and a month-long virtual race from October 1 – 31. Second Harvest is proud to be a charity partner of the STWM and we’re even prouder of these two utterly inspiring women who are raising funds for food rescue. 

We talked to Maria Cruz and Leeanne Donovan and we dare you not to feel pumped up and hopeful after hearing what they have to say about what gets them – and keeps them – on the road.

How long have you been racing? 

Leeanne: I started running in 2010 for fun and did it off and on, running some fun races every year and a few half-marathons. In 2018 I developed vertigo and wasn’t able to run or even walk for a while.  I tried to get back into it and continued to run moderately while struggling to get better but ended doing more run/walk than running. I’m really happy to say that I started to run again as a test of my condition at the beginning of the pandemic. Now I run five days a week and have taken my running to a level I never thought possible. I’m at my best shape and fastest pace than I’ve ever been before.

Maria: I’ve only been wheeling in a manual wheelchair for exercise since late 2017. I was born both blind and mobility impaired, and I work as an Accessibility QA Analyst helping to make sure smartphones and tablets are accessible for people like me who use text-to-speech screen readers. I feel lucky to have a good paying job where I can help improve accessibility for other people with disabilities including myself. Since 2017 I’ve been doing 5K races (not sure how many, but quite a few). When I go out wheeling I have to use the assistance of a sighted guide, who tells me which way to go or warns me about any potholes, people or obstacles coming up. Causes like Second Harvest are what motivate me most to do the races I do. I wheel to get good exercise and be by the lake, and it’s also really good to have the company of my guides. But wheeling for a good cause motivates me the most.

Did your training regime change in response to the pandemic?

Leeanne: Big time! As I said I struggle with vertigo and was struggling to run. I had a terrible work/life balance so didn’t feel like I had the time to manage my vertigo while trying to run again. The pandemic forced me to press pause on life. Not having to commute and not being able to do things gave me the gift of time, so I used it to start running again and come up with a solid plan for running with my condition. I decided to dedicate some time into getting my health in check, too. Since the pandemic started, I’ve lost 73 pounds, and I’ve taken my resting heart rate from 96bpm to 63bpm.

Maria: During the pandemic I wasn’t able to get out at all. I just started wheeling again in the beginning of July. Before July I did a couple of virtual races at home using my exercise machine, but to me it’s nothing like going out and wheeling, and it was really hard to motivate myself to do that. Pumping up my music definitely helped, and although I have quite a few favorites, I think my best pump-up song has to be “Roll It Gal” by Alison Hinds. As it turned out, the day I started wheeling again I wheeled 5K in the morning and another 5K later on in the afternoon. Man, were my arms sore after that!

What are some tips you would give fellow runners or newbies?  

Leeanne: Start slow, listen to your body (which I didn’t always do before), and don’t skimp out on good gear – it makes all the difference in preventing injury and making for a more comfortable run.

Maria: Although I don’t really have any tips for newbies, if anyone is considering getting into running and using their running to support awesome organizations like Second Harvest, I’d say go for it!

If you could say one thing to people and organizations considering supporting Second Harvest by doing the marathon, what would it be?  

Maria: You’ll not only get some good exercise, but you’ll be helping people and the environment too. I’m really happy to be able to support Second Harvest because I think it’s so important to keep good food from going to waste and to give good food to people who really need it.

Leeanne: I would say think about every step you’re taking as another family being fed, another kid not going to bed hungry, and another person feeling like there’s options out there for them. I’ve struggled with being in poverty in my life and my mom not always knowing where our next meal will come from. We had to rely on food banks a lot growing up. If there were no food banks, we would have gone hungry many times over, so I am a huge supporter. I love what Second Harvest does and will continue to support if there are people in need. 

The Laid-Back Lager That Gives Back

The Laid-Back Lager That Gives Back

COZ is a tiny craft beer that thinks big. The math is simple: with every COZ tallboy purchased, they will donate 50 cents to Second Harvest – enough to rescue a meal’s worth of food for someone in need. We asked Jeff Spriet, partner at COZ Beer, a six-pack of questions about his new brew.

How did you decide to get into the craft beer market?

As a proud Canadian brand, beer was the logical launching pad for COZ. However, the notion of “good products that do good” transcends categories. We hope the success of the beer will afford the launch of other delicious products bearing the COZ name. 

A question for all the craft beer enthusiasts out there: what’s COZ’s IBU? How would you describe its flavour profile? Any food pairing suggestions?

COZ is a laid-back lager with a low IBU score of 9 and a very clean finish. While we enjoy a heavier or hoppier beer on occasion, we found ourselves consistently picking those beers that are easy to enjoy. The secret to that is creating a beer that’s more dry than sweet. Food-wise, we’d recommend COZ to wash down any spicy or salty fare that pairs well with an easy-drinking liquid.

What has been the most interesting part of the creation and launch process for you?

The craft beer industry is an extremely friendly fraternity driven by people who, above all, are passionate about beer. While you won’t find a more competitive industry, it surprised us that so many fellow craft brewers gave us great free advice without hesitation.   

Why did you decide to create a cause-marketing themed beer? 

It feels good to do good – almost as good as a cold beer on a hot patio – so the simpatico was evident. Thanks to the work Second Harvest does, every beer quenches your thirst and someone else’s hunger. How cool is that?     

Why did you choose Second Harvest as a charity to support? (And thank you for that!)

Honestly, this was our easiest decision because Second Harvest is able to stretch the money into something that feels so tangible. The fact that you guys are tackling the major problem of food waste and that so much of every dollar raised goes to the actual program rather than the administration of it was huge for us.  

If you could say one thing to people and organizations considering supporting Second Harvest, what would it be?

For organizations, we’d say be a big fish in a small pond. There’s no better way to feel like you are making a real difference in your community. For regular folks, it’s like that feeling you get when you buy a stranger a coffee: that toonie holds no magic sitting in your pocket but paying forward your own good fortune can make your day and theirs.  

Click to learn where to find COZ beer.

Legal drinking age only. Please enjoy responsibly.

Partnering with Chick-fil-A to fight hunger in downtown Toronto

Partnering with Chick-fil-A to fight hunger in downtown Toronto

Since 1985, Second Harvest has been rescuing and redistributing food to fight hunger and reduce food waste in Canada. But as the COVID-19 pandemic struck the country, we were faced with one of the greatest challenges we’d seen in our 35-year history. Food insecurity and demand at food banks shot up, and we knew we’d need to marshal more resources than ever to help provide Canadians with nutritious, high quality food.

Enter our partners. We have thousands across Canada, and the relationship between Second Harvest, Chick-fil-A and Yonge Street Mission is truly special in terms of impact. Chick-fil-A’s support helped us take our food rescue mission across Canada two years ahead of schedule. And on a local level, every week Chick-fil-A Yonge and Bloor packages up sandwiches for Second Harvest to redistribute. 

Many of these sandwiches go to the food services program at Yonge Street Mission, a community-based organization that was hit hard by COVID-19. With the help of Second Harvest’s deliveries of healthy rescued food and Chick-fil-A, Yonge Street Mission was able to move 15-16 thousand pounds of food per week through their doors and out to Torontonians.

That’s why we want to take a moment to celebrate Chick-fil-A, Yonge Street Mission, and all our partners for their dedication to our mission and to Canadians. We know you won’t stop fighting hunger and food waste, and neither will we.

Read more about Second Harvest’s partnership with Chick-fil-A and Yonge Street Mission >

Raising a Toast to Zero-Waste Cocktails

Raising a Toast to Zero-Waste Cocktails

This month in our #DonatetheDifference challenge, we’re asking folks like you to reduce their food waste at home and make better use of leftover veggies, fruits, herbs and other strays from the pantry to save money, reduce your food expenses then Donate the Difference to help Second Harvest’s food rescue mission. 

Now our friends at Diplomático Rum have taken our challenge a step further – they’re showcasing how too-ripe berries or other fruits you have hiding in your fridge can make an amazing cocktail to spice up the remaining weeks of the summer. 

They’ve shared a tutorial video and recipe for their Canadian Berry Smash below – and be sure to follow @SecondHarvestCA on social this month where we will be featuring #thirstythursday cocktail recipes from Diplomático Rum as a tasty part of the #DonatetheDifference campaign in August. 

Click to watch Diplomático Rum’s mixologist in action!
Canadian Berry Smash photo credit: Andrew Brestansky @genericphotographer/ 

Recipe for a Canadian Berry Smash 


  • 2oz Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva 
  • ¾ oz fresh lime juice 
  • ¾ oz Cassis liqueur (or any berry liqueur you may have at home) 
  • Handful of berries (we used blackberries but you can use any ripe berries you have) 
  • Berry ice (we froze Cassis berries in large ice cubes, but again use what you have on hand at home) 


  • Freeze your berry ice cubes in advance. 
  • Pour the first four ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add the berry ice. 
  • Shake for several minutes and pour mixture into rocks glass. 
  • Garnish with fresh lime. 
  • Makes one zero waste cocktail – cheers!

Want to get more delicious zero-waste ideas like this all month long? Click here to sign up for the #DonateTheDifference challenge!

*Legal drinking age only. Please enjoy responsibly. 

Thanks to our generous sponsor:

42KM + YOU = 50,000 meals

42KM + YOU = 50,000 meals

There are less than 80 days to the 2021 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on October 17 – and we need your help! Our goal this year is to raise $25,000 which will allow us to rescue and deliver enough fresh, healthy food for over 50,000 meals. In preparation for October 17th, Second Harvest is officially launching Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon race training season!  

Will you join us again this year?

On October 17th, Second Harvest participants will run, walk or wheel the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon as a virtual race, allowing you to complete your chosen distance of 42 km, 21 km, 10 km, 5km, or a marathon relay at a route and date of your choosing. 

At the time of this article being posted, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon is working with the City of Toronto about whether they will be allowed to host an in-person 10K for the first 5,000 Canadian residents to register. We will be notified by mid-August about this situation and will share the news with you. But even if there’s an in-person marathon, the virtual race will still be offered so we still need all hands on deck!

We’re sweetening the deal

We are also offering some great benefits for our dedicated runners, walkers, and wheelers! 

SCENE Points

You will receive 500 SCENE points for every $500 raised, to a maximum of 10,000 points. Not a SCENE member? Join here today! Gift Cards

You will have a chance to win 1 of 5 $100 gift cards. Start your NHLShop wish list now

Top 3 Fundraisers

The top 3 fundraisers will take home a great prize. Stay tuned for more details!

First 50 Registered

The first 50 participants registered using this link will receive a Second Harvest reusable snack bag. 

If you have any questions or need assistance with registration, please call Rachel, Second Harvest’s Community Events Coordinator, at 416-659-5111 or send her an email at – she’ll be happy to help!

Here are some resources and links to help you get started: