Toronto’s Daily Bread Food Bank beats holiday targets despite challenges

Boxes wait to be filled with provisions at The Daily Bread Food Bank warehouse in Toronto on Wednesday March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Despite having to cancel its critical holiday food drive events, Toronto’s Daily Bread Food Bank was still able to not only meet, but exceed its food and fundraising targets for December, as demand hit an all-time high. 

“People rose up,” CEO Neil Hetherington said. “The city said fundamentally, we believe that everybody has a right to food and that right is not being realized for too many people and for those that could, they stood up.” 

On December 1st, Hetherington announced​ that in order to meet COVID-19 safety protocols around gatherings, its annual food drives would have to be cancelled. 

At the time, he said it risked being unable to meet demand for the holiday season, which was up 50 per cent year-over-year. 

The goals were to collect 400,000 pounds of food and hit a fundraising goal of over $1 million. 

December is also the busiest month, accounting for half of its annual output. 

But Hetherington said it was a few days before Christmas that the financial target was hit, with that for food being met shortly after. 

December 2020 also saw an 86 per cent increase in food distribution compared to December 2019. 

“A massive escalation in terms of individuals who needed to make use of food banks,” he said. “Everybody in the city is within a few degrees of separation.” 

“This is one of the things that I think we got to look back at 2020 and talk about uplifting moments.” 

Deputy Mayor and Ward 9 Cllr. Ana Bailao works with the facility often through her files on affordable housing. 

“It gives me great pride in the people of Toronto,” she said. “The demand has increased significantly, the need was there pre-COVID and it has increased by over 50 per cent.

“It’s extremely important.” 

Hetherington reiterated his long-term concerns however around food security, considering that during the economic crisis at the end of the last decade, demand peaked two and three years later. 

In the short term, he also hopes once the pandemic is over that the public won’t forget about those who will still be servicing food banks. 

Bailao says the best way to meet both is to move forward on the city’s 10-year housing plan, which was approved at the end of 2019. 

“That plan has been accelerated and it needs to continue,” she said. ​