When Second Harvest and Yonge Street Mission (YSM) first partnered in 2005, they had a simple goal: to ensure Torontonians experiencing poverty had access to nutritious food. Second Harvest supplies YSM’s Food Bank with a wide variety of food—which goes directly to 1,200 individuals every week who might not have access to healthy foods elsewhere.
Sixteen years later, both organizations have grown dramatically: YSM has served thousands of people and increased its programming to support the growing numbers of vulnerable Torontonians. Second Harvest has become a national nonprofit and helped facilitate the flow of rescued food to thousands of additional charities like Yonge Street Mission across the country.
Years of hard work by staff and volunteers at Second Harvest and YSM made this partnership possible for 14 years, and as operations scaled, a third organization joined the fight against food insecurity.
Chick-fil-A began its partnership with Second Harvest in 2019 through the Chick-fil-A Shared Table™ program, which donates meals to help fight hunger in local communities. With the help of Second Harvest, Shared Table bridges the gap between Chick-fil-A Operators and local charitable agencies like YSM, providing and distributing surplus food to those in need.
This program has been a staple of the company’s business in Toronto. Canada’s first location, Chick-fil-A Yonge & Bloor, partnered with YSM in 2019. Since then, the restaurant’s Operator and Team Members have forged a special bond with YSM.
YSM offers take-away meals through its Evergreen Centre for Street-Involved Youth and the Davis Centre for adults and families experiencing poverty, but Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich days are special hits in their community. Chick-fil-A and YSM have distributed more than 2,000 sandwiches in downtown Toronto —and counting.
But the impact goes far beyond a chicken sandwich.
“Once we welcome [a community member] with a hot meal, we engage in conversation, we aim to get to know them by name and begin to build trust and friendship,” said YSM’s Sandra Seaborn, Senior Director of Programs. “A meal generously donated by a familiar restaurant increases a community member’s sense of self-worth and often fast-tracks the trust building process.” Once that trust is built, community members are invited to join one of the many support services that YSM offers.
When the pandemic hit, Second Harvest, YSM and Chick-fil-A quickly saw an increase in the number of people experiencing food insecurity. It didn’t take long for the phones at YSM’s mental health team to start ringing off the hook and lines for their Food Bank to snake around the corner.
Second Harvest and Chick-fil-A stepped in immediately, coordinating generous food donations to meet the rising demand proving the strength of the friendship and commitment between all three organizations. In December 2020, Chick-fil-A awarded Yonge Street Mission a grant through its True Inspiration Awards™ program, which allowed YSM to keep its doors open and adapt its crucial services despite the pressures of the pandemic, which had increased YSM’s food budget by $5,000 each week.
“The donation of food and the acknowledgement from Chick-fil-A for the dedicated work of our staff in this community was a huge boost as COVID-19 wore us down,” said Seaborn. “We quickly realized that our long lineups and the continued stress on our community were not waning. It was the loyal support of partners such as Chick-fil-A that helped us to keep going.”
Despite challenging circumstances, the pandemic also strengthened the relationship between Second Harvest and Chick-fil-A.
“Chick-fil-A has done a great job building food rescue into their inventory management and loss prevention processes, which is at the heart of the important work Second Harvest does,” said Lori Nikkel CEO at Second Harvest. Before and throughout the pandemic, Chick-fil-A worked with Second Harvest to match good business with positive community and environmental impact.
“It’s amazing to see the food we donate directly benefit those in need in our community. This program has a positive impact on everyone involved, not just the recipients. It’s a reminder to our team that we can make a difference beyond our restaurant’s walls,” said Wilson Yang, Operator at Chick-fil-A Yonge & Bloor.
As life returns to normal, YSM will continue stocking its Food Bank with rescued food from Second Harvest, and people will begin to fill Chick-fil-A restaurants as the hospitality industry reopens. And one other thing will stay the same: All three organizations will continue to share a passion for collaboration, public service and the fight to get a warm, nutritious meal to every Torontonian who needs one.
Once again, COVID has created another summer of uncertainty for children who would normally be taking part in summer camps – and, more pressingly, who would normally have access to the lunches that camps provide. With some camps paused because of COVID precautions, kids living with food insecurity in Toronto’s high-priority neighbourhoods are facing summer hunger. But happily, for a second summer, Second Harvest’s Feeding Our Future program is responding to the need.
Meeting the need
The kids and summer programs served by Second Harvest’s Feeding Our Future program live in communities the City of Toronto designates “Neighborhood Improvement Areas” and which are highlighted by their need for supports to improve social, economic, and physical conditions. Our community partners are concentrated in eastern areas such as Scarborough and Malvern; in the west Toronto neighbourhoods of Weston King and Jane/Finch; and in downtown communities like Moss Park and Regent Park.
Working with 31 social service agencies, Second Harvest is working to fill the hunger gap with Feeding Our Future family wellness kits, assembled with teams of volunteers and with the support of generous donors like presenting sponsor Cadillac Fairview, as well as The Otto and Marie Pick Foundation and the AIR MILES® Rewards Program.
The family wellness kits contain fresh fruits and veggies, a grain (like tortillas, pita or baguette) and a protein (like hummus, tuna or yogurt), plus drinks and snacks like granola bars and fruit cups. Games and activities and even a link to a child-focused yoga class sponsored by Cadillac Fairview, and a pass to the zoo round out the kits, making them a fun boost each week of the summer. Our agency partners distribute the kits to their community members, and we anticipate providing more than 13,000 kits to approximately 2,000 children and youth, which will have an impact on 1,500 families.
Strong support from day one
Feeding our Future has had strong support from its earliest beginnings 20 years ago when it was started by Sodexo and then adopted by Second Harvest as a permanent part of our mission. Along the way, we have had significant support from George Weston Ltd and Weston Foods, and President’s Choice Children’s Charity. Feeding Our Future has also benefitted from donors like Sofina, as well as support from Kitchen 24 in preparing lunches and meal kits, and Rotary Club of Toronto Charitable Foundation, who donated a new van that we use to distribute meals for Feeding Our Future and our Harvest Kitchen program.
We are grateful to be building on the strong foundation provided by these generous donors and we welcome Cadillac Fairview as our partner as we enter our third decade of Feeding Our Future.
“Caring for our communities is an important part of our culture at Cadillac Fairview,” says Misha Lobo, Senior Manager, Brand, at Cadillac Fairview. “As lead sponsor of the Feeding Our Futures program, we’re proud to help Second Harvest combat food insecurity by providing families with healthy nutritious food throughout the summer months.”
Our heartfelt thanks to the lead sponsor of Feeding Our Future 2021.
When you have a special occasion like a child’s birthday on the horizon, there’s a lot of expectation to navigate – add COVID precautions to the mix and it can be extra-tricky to show your child and guests a good time. Here are six party-planning tips to make hosting a breeze!
1. Take advantage of the great outdoors.
COVID realities are making indoor parties trickier so take the celebrations outside – whatever the weather. A picnic in the park, a birthday bike trek to see autumn leaves, a skating party or a classic backyard BBQ can allow for guests and social distancing much more easily than your living room.
2. Plan a contactless meal.
Communal bowls of chips and dip are definitely not on the menu these days. Prepare grab-and-go options for guests. A bento box can hold apps and mains and be a fun party souvenir, too.
3. You can’t spell “perfect party experience” without P-P-E
Make your guests feel extra-comfortable by having fresh masks and hand sanitizer ready. If guests will be using your washroom, provide single-use paper hand towels or napkins and switch from bar soap to a pump soap dispenser.
4. Make a game of social distancing.
We’ll have to keep our Twister mats in the closet for a while but there are still classic party games that can keep a crowd happy without getting too close, like charades or trivia challenges for tweens and teens and Red Light/Green Light or Statues for younger kids.
5. If it has to be on-screen, go big.
The unexpected bonus of meeting via Zoom, Teams or FaceTime is that the world can literally be available to you. If a party has to be virtual, you can invite relatives and friends who live too far away to attend an in-person event. Netflix users can host a movie night through Teleparty. Book a musical guest from another country. What else can you dream up to max out the potential of the tech?
6. Give a giving option.
Whether in person or on screen, hosting an ECHOage party adds generosity and empathy to the festivities. Guests make a gift through ECHOage and 50% is donated to a charity and 50% goes to the family to purchase a large gift or smaller gifts of the child’s choice. Second Harvest is proud to be an ECHOage party partner. You can start planning your ECHOage party and support our work of food rescue by clicking here – and share your ECHOage party pix on social and tag @SecondHarvestCA so we can celebrate with you!
Recently Second Harvest had the chance to ask Audrey Leduc, McCain’s Senior Manager, Planet-Friendly Practices, five quick questions. Audrey’s role at McCain is supporting planet-friendly innovation across McCain’s supply chain, ensuring environmental compliance and advising on customer, consumer and employee outreach on the topic of sustainability.
1. Tell us about McCain’s Global Sustainability Strategy. What motivated your commitment to build thriving communities?
Since our founding on a farm in New Brunswick in 1957, helping the rural communities where we live and operate to thrive has been a priority. In 2020, the pandemic further highlighted the fragility of many communities around the world, including rural and marginalized communities. In the countries where we operate, we witnessed millions of people facing unemployment, while food banks struggled to keep up with demand. In response, our McCain teams expanded our existing partnerships with food banks and we were able to donate the equivalent of more than 53 million meals globally.
2. How has supporting Second Harvest impacted your team and your greater community?
Our partnership with Second Harvest is brand new and we are excited to collaborate with them to achieve our ambitious North American objectives, including:
Increase food donations – McCain will continue to donate products and raw food to reach the equivalent of 17 million meals donated in the 2022 fiscal year.
Reduce food waste – Achieving zero food waste objective, ensuring that both raw and finished products are enjoyed and never thrown out.
Volunteering Opportunities – McCain launched McCain Chips In, an exciting new program enabling employees to benefit from a paid day off to volunteer and support the communities where we operate.
3. If you could say one thing to people and organizations considering supporting Second Harvest, what would it be?
Second Harvest is a global thought leader on food recovery. Their Food Rescue app, which helps local food donors share unsold healthy surpluses with non-profits in their communities, is easy to use and a testimony to Second Harvest’s desire to continuously innovate. In terms of technology for Food Banks, they are leading and have an ability to predict their partner’s needs.
4. Did McCain’s Global Sustainability Strategy change in response to the global pandemic?
Although life fundamentally changed for many in 2020, the acute challenges posed by climate change and our fragile food system only became more evident. We are proud of the significant strides made towards achieving our Sustainability Strategy last year and the pandemic underscores the emphasis on the food industry and its stakeholders – furthering our resolve to act.
5. What does “No Waste. No Hunger” mean to McCain?
We are fortunate to be in a position where we can make a difference for those in need and are proud to play a role in improving the communities where we live, work and play. We focus our efforts where we can have the greatest positive impact: no waste, no hunger means continuing to grow our business sustainably while ensuring that our finished goods and the raw products that we use always sustain our communities and never become waste. This is part of our objective to continue to bring people together and unite them towards planet-friendly food.
Did you know that reducing your food waste can save you money? We toss 2.3 million tonnes of perfectly good food every year, costing Canadian households an average of $1,766 a year.
That’s why we are challenging you this month of August to reduce food waste and food costs and donate the difference back to Second Harvest. Our goal is to raise $25,000 to help provide food for over 50,000 meals for people across Canada!
Throughout the month, we will be sharing a wide variety of tips to cut your food costs down, from leftover hacks, food storing tips, grocery shopping efficiencies, preservation techniques, and even cocktail recipes! These tools will help create savings in your food budget, savings that can help fill kitchens for food insecure families across Canada!
Have you found kitchen hacks that have reduced your food waste and saved you money, like freezing – and eating – your leftovers, turning overripe fruit into gelato, buying only what you need or using smaller storage? Estimate your savings and #DonatetheDifference
Step 3: Show off your progress on social!
Take a photo of your economical and planet-friendly meal or food saving tip and post them with the hashtag #DonatetheDifference and tag @SecondHarvestCA. Take it up a notch and tag three friends to take the challenge with you – and be sure to follow us on social @SecondHarvestCA to see how people like you are doing their part.
Inspired to see how much you can save? We have all the resources and tips to help you get started.