At least one Toronto food bank is taking extraordinary measures to keep operating amidst the perilous conditions imposed by the coronavirus outbreak.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak took hold of Toronto there’s been 20 percent growth in the number of clients making use of Toronto’s Daily Bread Food Bank over a span of the last two weeks.
The pressure to provide food to new clients coupled with required social distancing has forced the food bank to change its operations in a dramatic way. They’ve partnered with GlobalMedic and set up a medical hospital mobile field tent in the food bank’s parking lot. Now the food comes out on a conveyor belt from inside the tent.
“That allows individuals who need to make use of the food bank to come get the food, but not interact with staff or volunteers in the traditional way,” says Hetherington.
Hethering points out that Daily Bread staff is now focused purely on core efforts of getting food to those who need it. “If you’re an accountant you might be driving a food truck, and if you’re in marketing, you might be loading a 53-foot trailer.”
In the first week 30 percent of the food banks in Toronto closed and that has been a huge impediment from a distribution standpoint. “They closed because they were in community centres or because they were run by volunteers who were in high risk categories,” says Hetherington.
“So beginning today through next week we will be launching pop up food banks in libraries. The libraries are shut so we will be strategically placing new food banks in certain communities to deal with the demand.”
Daily Bread also had to address challenges in terms of truck driver staffing. “We’ve filled that void in partnership with AMJ Campbell Toronto trucking, which is now providing transportation services to pick up food bins from grocery stores and fire halls across the city,” says Hetherington.
Once the food arrives it is quarantined in a trailer for three days so that there’s no trace of the virus that causes COVID-19. Once it passes the quarantine stage it gets moved into two more trailers where it’s prepared for distribution.
“We’re adapting to the new normal. We’ve had to make a lot of shifts. It’s been a herculean effort by a tremendous group of volunteers,” says Hetherington.
If you wish to donate to Daily Bread, Hetherington says the best thing to do is to order food online and have it shipped to The Daily Bread Food Bank, 191 New Toronto St., Toronto ON, M8V 2E7, or make a financial donation at https://www.dailybread.ca/