Thorncliffe Park and East York Meals on Wheels team up for Ramadan

A joint effort aims to relieve stress for observers of the Muslim tradition

East York Meals on Wheels' head office. (Ryan Donahue/Toronto Observer) 

East York Meals on Wheels has teamed up with local communities during Ramadan to help ensure people are getting a good meal.

The organization, located on the corner of Overlea Boulevard and Beth Nealson Drive, is partnering with the communities of Flemingdon Park and Thorncliffe Park to aid in the preparation of free meals for residents by providing kitchen facilities and packaging. 

Safeera Hatia, the co-founder of Friends of Thorncliffe Park, talked about the worries that came to the forefront, specifically during the pandemic.  “There were legitimate concerns about people with an inability to get their hands on a hot meal,” Hatia said. 

This is the fifth Ramadan Meal project for the communities, which has seen more than 500 people benefit and 1,500 meals delivered yearly. Meals include the main dinner, generally a protein, a salad, naan bread, and a dessert such as a fruit cup.

An X post from @EYMealsOnWheels shows a busy kitchen preparing meals for Ramadan. (X)

First established by Dr. Shakhlo Sharipova during the pandemic, the goal of the Ramadan Meal project is to provide those in need with a hot meal for Ramadan. Sharipova was the recipient of the 2023 Agnes Macphail Award for her work in the community.

Thorncliffe Park and Flemingdon Park have a strong Muslim presence with Thorncliffe Park having 46 per cent of its population being of South Asian origin, including 4,635 being Pakistani and 3,725 being East Indian per the 2016 census. Flemingdon Park has 34 per cent of its population being of South Asian origin, including 3,520 being East Indian and 1,165 being Pakistani per the 2016 census.

East York Meals on Wheels is a not-for-profit community organization that aims to provide aid to seniors and residents who may be physically unable to go out and get food.

‘It’s a community, it’s a family’

Ramadan, observed by Muslims as the month of fasting, is running from March 10 to April 9.  Those observing will fast from sunrise to sunset, and is meant to be a period of prayer, reflection, and community. The Ramadan Meal project assists by providing food for iftar, the evening break of fast. 

Bibi Amin, a senior, is grateful for the aid and hopes the program can help ease the minds of others observing Ramadan.  “Ramadan can be stressful for people,” says Amin.  “Fasting all through the day is tough, and the last thing you want to be thinking about is, ‘What am I going to eat tonight?’”

Amin said Ramadan can be “particularly tough with families,” and that programs like these help in putting those at ease. 

After moving to Canada from India in 2008, Amin said she feels at home and credits the togetherness of the community. “Things like [the Ramadan Meal project], that’s just the tip,” said Amin. “It’s a community, it’s a family, which is very appropriate for Ramadan.”

55 years of Meals on Wheels in East York

East York Meals on Wheels was founded in 1969, and provides a wide variety of year-round services, including fresh and frozen meals, halal options, fresh ingredients, and a diner’s club, which allows clients to eat with others both in person and online.

Operations manager Mary Skwarek said the organization continues to look for ways to carry out its mission.

“The purpose of Meals on Wheels has always been about addressing the food insecurities in East York,” she said. 

Since 2020, the organization has made more than 1.3 million deliveries of food, meals, medication, and other essentials to its numerous clients.

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Posted: Apr 4 2024 9:00 am
Filed under: News