Second Harvest asks Torontonians to hand over their lunch money

Food agency Second Harvest wants Torontonians to pack a lunch tomorrow and donate what they would usually spend at lunchtime to help feed the city’s hungry.

Lunch Money Day is the charity’s largest fundraising campaign of the year, with donations going towards distributing fresh food that would otherwise be wasted to social service agencies throughout the GTA.

Tonia Krauser, director of communications at Second Harvest, says the need to deliver food to low-income communities has risen dramatically in the wake of the recession.

“As soon as the recession hit, the agencies that we serve reported a 20-30 per cent increase in people coming through their doors,” she said. “Although the recession is technically over, … the people who were affected, who were already struggling before the recession, it’s going to take them that much longer to get back on their feet.”

From their Downsview Warehouse, Second Harvest’s seven trucks deliver six million pounds of food a year, the equivalent of 16,000 meals a day, to 200 agencies in the GTA. These include women’s shelters, community centres that help low-income seniors, homeless people and newcomers to Canada, services for people dealing with addiction and mental illness, and breakfast programs for children.

Marilyn Eisenstat, managing director of PEACH, an agency that supports at-risk youth in the Jane-Finch community, says aid from Second Harvest allows them to more effectively to support their clients.

“The introduction of Second Harvest into our program has allowed PEACH to be a better resourced ‘school away from school’ and ‘home away from home’ for our students,” she said.

In addition to providing youth with meals and food to take home to their families, Eisenstat said they are now able to offer grade nine and ten students a Food and Nutrition credit.

Second Harvest receives no ongoing government funding and is not a United Way agency, so the donations received on Lunch Money Day play a huge role in sustaining the charity, Krauser said.“It’s very important to the work that we do,” she said. “It literally keeps our trucks on the road, delivering and rescuing food, every day.”

Torontonians who forget to pack a lunch tomorrow can visit Yonge-Dundas Square between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. for Feeding It Forward, an event hosted by the Food Network’s Bob Blumer. Chefs from the Escoffier Society, Janes Family Foods and Sodexo will be on hand to whip up lunches available for $1 to $3.