For many struggling to make ends meet, food banks provide a lifeline through access to fresh, healthy offerings.
Those who have made a choice not to eat meat – whether for ethical, health or other reasons – have reduced options.
Toronto resident Matt Noble is looking to bridge that gap with the opening of the Toronto Vegetarian Food Bank. His concept, which is slated to open at the Yonge Street Mission Jan. 31, is an extension of the now-defunct Ontario Vegetarian Food Bank, which had locations in North York and Scarborough until they closed in 2013.
“I was talking a lot with Malan (Joseph, the founder of the Ontario Vegetarian Food Bank) and there was talk about opening one downtown,” Noble said. “I said I would volunteer there when it opens, but I didn’t hear anything for months, and after that they said there was no funding for it.”
Undaunted, Noble managed to connect with the Yonge Street Mission through his grandmother, who volunteered there, and secured some space. With that dilemma out of the way, he and a team of like-minded volunteers are still working out a few details in the weeks leading up to his venture’s opening.
“We’re still in the process of figuring out the exact list of items we’d like and I’m learning to deal with the finances for a food bank – things like buying in bulk,” he said.
He said he hopes the Toronto Vegetarian Food Bank is able to offer at least 50 per cent whole foods (fresh produce), though he understands items such as dried beans and other legumes are often cheaper and could allow the organization to reach more people.
While the bank will be located downtown, it will be open to those in need from throughout the GTA, whether they are between jobs, working for little pay or otherwise having trouble meeting their financial commitments.
“There are a lot of people who work jobs that don’t pay a lot or they’re on social assistance that covers rent and maybe a phone to look for work but doesn’t leave them with anything left over,” Noble said. “Food is usually where people have to cut back.”
Noble first became a vegetarian 10 years ago after learning of the environmental impacts of farming animals. When his sister introduced him to animal rights and some of the conditions in which farm animals are often kept, he switched to veganism.
“It was a personal choice, but there are a lot of reasons people choose to become vegetarian and they should have options for fresh food,” he said.
At present, the plan is to have the Toronto Vegetarian Food Bank open one day a month, though Noble said that could change depending on funding and demand.
“We don’t know what to expect and how many people we’ll have come in,” he said. “We’ll start out going with the last Saturday of every month because people have bills coming up on the first. If the demand’s there and we have the funding, I’d like to do it at least twice a month.”
The food bank is currently looking for funds and donations to help maintain it. An Indiegogo crowdfunding page has been set up at www.indiegogo.com/projects/help-launch-the-toronto-vegetarian-food-bank to help meet the need.
For more information on the project as a whole, visit www.tvfb.ca