30 Stories

Over the course of providing hunger relief for the past thirty years, we have received countless letters and calls from so many people thanking us for the food we’ve delivered and letting us know how it impacted their lives. Below are thirty stories, from food recipients, donors, volunteers and supporters, representing Second Harvest’s thirty years of food rescue. We’re sharing these stories with you, so that you too, can see how important food rescue is to those experiencing hunger in our city. To read our latest annual report, featuring some of these stories, click here.

Click on each photo to read more.

Anna Withrow, Wink & Nod Communications, Volunteer

Long-time volunteer Anna Withrow, understands firsthand what it means to live with hunger. After finding herself in a situation where she could no longer afford food, Anna promised herself that whenever she found her way to the other side of hunger she would do something to support others in a similar situation. And that she certainly has. As a volunteer with Second Harvest for the past 18 years, Anna has been instrumental in the planning and execution of Second Harvest’s largest fundraising event, Toronto Taste. She has done a little bit of everything including event planning, social media strategy, selling tickets, setting up and so much more

After overcoming some extremely challenging obstacles, today Anna is a successful business owner and continues to speak on behalf of those in need, particularly the working poor. She wants people to know that there are many others right here in Toronto who are working hard and really fighting to keep their heads above water. It’s hard to imagine, but situations can change very quickly and so many of us are vulnerable.

Read our sit down interview with Anna here.

Trisha – Food Coordinator, Sistering, Second Harvest Agency Partner

Sistering is a non-profit organization that deals with the most marginalized women in society. Located on Bloor Street West they offer a wide variety of services to women. They serve seniors, new immigrants, refugees and economically marginalized women of all ages.

Their community-based programs include harm reduction, employment and recruitment training, education, language skills, health services, psychiatric support, clothing and of course food support. Their case workers help their clients find jobs, housing, and provide immigration information. The agency began in 1980 and currently serves around 275 women a day.

Trisha has been working at Sistering for 6 years in the kitchen. She tells us that their clients come in for the food and from there they can help address other problems they may be experiencing, like financial struggles, domestic abuse, housing, employment, immigration, physical or mental health.

“For the women here, Sistering is a lifeline.”

Sistering relies heavily on the fresh food donations like meat and produce. The healthy meals that Trisha and her team provide the women give them the sustenance they need to face the day and their challenges. The food is so important - it nourishes everyone.

Sistering changes people’s lives, provides them with a sense of community. A lot of women who come to this country are in situations where they struggle and nobody hears them. Sistering hears them.

Linda, Jeff & Jason – Food Recipients

Linda and her two boys, Jeff and Jason, bravely left their home behind after years of suffering domestic violence. They now live in transitional housing provided by a local women's shelter. The shelter helps Linda make ends meet through their supplemental food program, which relies on food from Second Harvest.

Every week, Linda gets a box of nutritious groceries from the shelter. The time and money she saves means she can attend to healing, parenting and working to support her family without compromising her limited budget or time with her sons, who need her now more than ever.

Ravi Nagraj, Investment Advisor, RBC Wealth Management, Financial Donor & Volunteer

Ravi has been a volunteer and financial supporter for the past 9 years. When he first learned about Second Harvest’s model, connecting surplus food with those in need, he was struck by how efficient and economical it is. He then got involved by running a workplace campaign to raise awareness and funds for Second Harvest. He has since fundraised every year, volunteered taking collections in the TTC, and helped out at events, even in the freezing cold.

Ravi believes once people hear about the food rescue model they have a lightbulb moment and are grateful that someone is making the connection between this important surplus and deficit. As an investment advisor, he would like to see more support for food rescue come from the financial services sector, an industry that appreciates an efficient operating model.

When asked what motivates him to be such a dedicated supporter, he recalls a time when he was volunteering in the TTC taking collections for Second Harvest. Someone came up to him and let him know that they had once received food through a partner agency and then they dropped coins into his collection can. Seeing someone have such an emotional connection to the service Second Harvest provided was really impactful and that is something that has always stayed with him.

ArtCity – Young Artists, Food Recipients

Established in 2000, Art City in St. James Town is a not-for-profit organization, and Second Harvest partner agency, that provides after-school and weekend art programs, free of charge, to the children and youth who reside in this community. Located in a storefront on Sherbourne Street, Art City is fully integrated into one of Canada’s most densely populated and culturally diverse neighbourhoods, and is a safe and non-discriminatory environment that encourages passion for artistic expression, a connection to the community, and a difference in their future.

Art City aims to engage the community’s youngest and most vulnerable members by offering art-based programs that foster creative thinking, promote self-esteem, and develop a sense of personal accomplishment. Projects are developed and facilitated by professional artists. Participants are challenged with new experiences that will stimulate their artistic sensibilities and build skills focused on creativity and communication.

Art City also provides after-school help and healthy snacks for all students attending programs. Second Harvest has provided more than 40,000 pounds of fresh, nutritious food to Art City.

Understanding that artistic experiences are critical to their intellectual, social, and emotional development, Art City provides meaningful opportunities that have lifelong benefits. Through art education activities, children develop valuable problem solving and interpersonal skills, and build respect and empathy for others.

Rita - Single Mom, Food Recipient

Rita and her young son attend a meal program at a Second Harvest partner agency a couple times a week. Even though she works full-time she often cannot afford groceries, especially good quality groceries, to last them the whole week.

Rita’s partner and father of her son left suddenly, leaving her to parent and provide all on her own. Much of Rita’s income goes to their rent. It leaves little money to pay for anything else, even food. Sometimes, Rita will go without a meal because there isn’t enough for both her and her son. She makes sure that he eats first.

At the meal program Rita’s son gobbles up dinners like chicken and rice, but he especially loves the chocolate chip cookies and milk for dessert.

“I hope to be able to get back on my feet, and be able to pay for all our household needs myself, but until then the meals we receive here are life savers. I don’t know what my son and I would do without them.”

Abdul Abubaker, Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture, Agency Partner

Abdul is the coordinator of language and skills training at the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture (CCVT), a Second Harvest partner agency. The agency aids survivors in overcoming the lasting effects of torture and war. They offer a wide range of supportive programs including settlement services, language training, skills training, education, immigration and mental health support. Food is central to their services.

CCVT sees about 1,900 clients annually. They serve children, women, the elderly, young families – many people who have escaped from war zones. Clients come from all over the world; the Middle East, Africa, and South America. Their clients have highly complex needs due to the trauma they have experienced. The nutritious food provided by Second Harvest fills their client’s hunger gap so they can focus on establishing themselves in a new country. Children can learn English, their parents can build job skills, their grandparents can get support from social workers – and it all starts with a healthy meal.

Hektor Habili, Second Harvest Driver

Hektor Habili has been a Second Harvest Driver for 9 years. He previously drove a medical supply truck for the International Red Cross in Albania during tumultuous times. Now he navigates the roads of Toronto in one of Second Harvest’s 7 refrigerated trucks. Hektor makes about a dozen stops a day, picking up good food from generous donors, and delivering it to grateful agency partners. He believes strongly in our mission and vision, as he knows the food that leaves his hands is truly saving lives.

Hektor wishes people knew how nutritious and high-quality the food is that Second Harvest rescues and delivers. The quality of produce, meat and dairy is unmatched. It’s what makes Second Harvest’s food rescue program unique. He knows that children, adults and seniors are nourished every day thanks to this network of food rescuers.

Curlina – Harvest Kitchens Graduate

The Harvest Kitchens program trains adults and youth with barriers to employment in food preparation, while providing healthy, prepared meals to Torontonians in need through our agency network. Working under the supervision of food service professionals, Harvest Kitchen trainees learn the skills of the trade while turning recovered food into nourishing prepared meals that Second Harvest then delivers to agencies lacking adequate kitchen facilities and resources to prepare foods for families and individuals in high-need communities. Second Harvest partners with four agencies across the city including the Learning Enrichment Foundation (LEF).

Harvest Kitchens graduate, Curlina first learned to cook while growing up in Grenada. It was her grandmother who patiently taught her to prepare meals and bake cakes without the need for measuring ingredients, and it was these days in the kitchen that she first thought she could pursue a culinary career.

At LEF, Curlina is doing much more than learning the necessary cooking skills to gain employment – she’s also preparing hundreds of meals a day for people across Toronto who don’t have access to good food.

“I was so excited when I got accepted to the program because now I will be able to make a better life for my kids,” says Curlina, who came to Canada in 1995 and was unemployed at the time she applied for the Harvest Kitchens program.

“And I’m happy that the food I’m cooking is going to someone who needs it. I once lived in a shelter so I know what it’s like to not have much.”

The program sees food from Second Harvest come around full circle, from raw ingredients to prepared meals, while training students in the process. It’s a win-win-win.

Curlina hopes to land a job in a kitchen that lets her apply what she’s learned at LEF but also share her Caribbean cooking heritage.

Click hereto read more about how food rescue fuels job training.

Mark McEwan – Celebrity Chef, Entrepreneur, Second Harvest Ambassador

Mark McEwan, one of Canada’ most famous chefs and restaurateurs, has been supporting Second Harvest for over twenty-five years! In addition to donating his time as a spokesperson for the organization, and participating in Toronto Taste, Mark makes sure that surplus food is regularly picked up from his businesses, both restaurants and grocery stores, and delivered to Second Harvest partner agencies.

As someone who is in the business of feeding people every day, it’s important for Mark to make sure that those who are struggling in our community receive healthy, fresh food. And he’s more than willing to do his part in connecting surplus food to people experiencing hunger.

It all started more than twenty-five years ago, when his friend Bonnie Stern asked him to be part of Second Harvest’s fundraiser Toronto Taste. Mark is one of the original 6 chefs who have been involved in the event since day one.

As a business owner himself, Mark also appreciates the efficient model of Second Harvest.

“I believe Second Harvest is one of the most important charities in the city. They enrich people’s day to day lives and I couldn’t be more proud to have been part of such a great organization for so long.”

ArtHeart, Children from Second Harvest partner agency ArtHeart, Food Recipients

Located in Regent Park, ArtHeart has been a stabilizing presence for youth, adults and seniors for the past two decades. The program provides free visual arts education and materials. Every client who attends receives a healthy snack or a hot, nutritious meal thanks to the food supplied by Second Harvest. This inner-city arts centre is an oasis for learning and creativity in an under-resourced and under-served community. The staff and volunteers foster an environment that challenges participants to rise above the constraints of poverty and realize their potential.

ArtHeart provides, free of charge, a year-round supportive art studio environment, creative materials, education, supportive volunteers, and a wide variety of art activities, innovative programs and projects for all ages. Through artistic expression ArtHeart addresses issues of poverty, selfesteem, violence, substance abuse, unemployment, education, isolation and poor health. Clients come from a variety of cultures, religions and backgrounds, but here they come together, sharing creative thoughts and meals, as one community.

Mike Mallard – Food Recipient, Volunteer, Metropolitan United Community Outreach Program

Located in the heart of downtown Toronto at Queen St. East and Church St., Metropolitan United has had the opportunity to be of service to the community since 1830. They support those who are hungry, in need of housing services, coping with mental health or addiction challenges, and people looking to re-establish their place in their community.

Some of the clients at Metropolitan United come from local shelters, rehab centres or directly off the street. Many carry all of their belongings with them when they arrive. Some struggle with addiction and some struggle with mental illness. And almost all of the clients live well below the poverty line.

Mike, is a client but also one of the “official volunteers”, helping out with everything from setting up tables and chairs for the drop-in meal program to unloading food deliveries. Mike’s willingness to lend a hand and his consistent good nature are endless. With well over 100 clients in the centre at any given time, Mike’s support helps to fulfill their mission of improving the quality of clients’ lives.

Mike doesn’t have access to refrigeration or cooking facilities. This becomes challenging when trying to maintain a healthy diet. Trays of food provided by Second Harvest contain salads, vegetables, potatoes, rice and pasta dishes accompanied by chicken, pork or steak provide vital nutrition and sustenance. Second Harvest has provided more than 430,000 pounds of fresh, surplus food to Metropolitan United.

"Together with Second Harvest, our Community Outreach program not only feeds bodies, we nourish souls."

Click hereto read more about Mike and Metropolitan United Community Outreach Program.

Billie Jean – Food Recipient, Volunteer, St. James Food Basket

The St. James Food Basket provides perishable and non-perishable food items and sundries to about 200 individuals and families every week. The Food Basket also serves lunch once a week. Those who rely on the Food Basket have often unexpectedly lost their jobs or are unable to work because of illness or disability; many are even working, yet are struggling to make ends meet.

Every Monday, Billy Jean is at the St. James Food Basket to help unload the Second Harvest food truck when it arrives with its weekly delivery. Once it is unloaded, Billy Jean and several other volunteers set to work sorting through all of the healthy food – the apples, bananas and other fruits are separated from the tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and other vegetables; the dairy products, such as the milk and yogurt, are refrigerated and the cooked meats are bagged for easy serving.

When the job is done, Billy Jean takes home a bag filled with some of that food. Because Billy Jean, like many of the other volunteers at the Food Basket, is also a regular client.

“When we take home some food, we all feel a bit better knowing that we worked really hard for it,” says Billy Jean, who recently graduated with a social services diploma. “It’s a pride thing. Instead of taking money, we get food and many of us volunteers feel a lot better about needing the food and services here when we’re giving back.”

Click hereto read more about the cycle of giving.

Robin Cumine, Partner, McLean & Kerr LLP, Second Harvest Volunteer and Honorary Legal Counsel

Robin has been involved with Second Harvest since day. That’s over thirty years of volunteering! We asked him a few questions about his long-time involvement with the organization.

How did you first become involved in Second Harvest?

I first became involved in Second Harvest when Joan Clayton, approached me and said that her and her friend had a good idea to help people and they needed three things; a corporation, a charitable registration and a lawyer who is going to do that for them for nothing. She announced that they had decided that would be me!

Since they needed three directors to incorporate and since the project seemed to be a very good one, I agreed to follow her requests and became one of the first three directors of the corporation early in 1985.

Why do you think it’s important to support Second Harvest?

It is clearly important to support Second Harvest since it has, over the years, helped to provide food to an increasing number of people in need. It has enabled a large number of social service agencies in the Metropolitan Toronto area to better fulfill the needs of their constituents and some of its various programs such as its summer camp program, have helped to provide a good deal more than the satisfaction of hunger relief to young and old in our area.

How does it personally make you feel to know that you’ve connected surplus food with someone who was hungry?

It personally makes me feel of some use and of course with a Scots background, it helps satisfy my naturally frugal nature.

What do you wish people knew about Second Harvest?

What I wish people knew about Second Harvest is how much need there is for what it does and how much more it could do with their help. It has lately been verified, but has always been the case that a dollar given to Second Harvest will provide more help to more people than a dollar donated to almost any other cause. The need continues to grow and we can only hope that our ability to, in part, satisfy that need continues to grow as well with the help of people who learn about it.

Ina Andre & Joan Clayton – Second Harvest Founders

In 1985, two local women, Ina Andre and Joan Clayton, saw a problem and chose to do something about it.

The 1980’s saw a rise in the awareness of global hunger and the introduction of food banks in Canada. While raising funds for international hunger relief, Ina and Joan were asked – what about people who are hungry right here in Toronto? They recognized there was indeed a rising hunger problem in their own city and at the same time, they saw perfectly good surplus food at local restaurants and grocery stores being thrown away.

Ina and Joan decided to approach those restaurants and grocery stores and asked if they would donate that food to local food banks and shelters. Local businesses were quick to jump onboard this common-sense approach to hunger relief.

Together, Ina and Joan would drive around the city picking up food in their hatchbacks and delivering it to social service agencies to feed hungry people. And so, Second Harvest began with two volunteers, and a handful of food donors and social service agencies.

Click hereto read more about how Second Harvest has evolved since Ina and Joan had a great idea more than thirty years ago.

Police Officer – Hunger Relief Provider

At Second Harvest we’ve taken some tough calls over the years, but this one particularly stands out to the staff. One winter day, close to closing time, we received a phone call from a police officer who had responded to an emergency call. When he got there he found a deaf woman who couldn’t speak at all and was in desperate need of food. Can you imagine calling 911 – for food?

The officer spent an hour calling around, trying to find somewhere that was open that night. He said she had a few things in her cupboards but not enough to feed her and her children. We directed him to one of our partner agencies. The next day we followed up – the police officer had driven the woman to a Salvation Army food bank himself. She was able to get enough groceries for her and her family not only for that night, but now she knew where to go on a regular basis for food support. This family that was so desperate for food support that they called 911 got the help they needed, all thanks to the kindness and patience of a police officer who took the time to navigate the hunger relief system.

Toronto People With AIDS Foundation – Second Harvest Agency Partner

Since 1987, the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation (PWA) has been helping men, women, trans men, trans women, and children live with HIV/AIDS. They are a community-based non-profit and long-time Second Harvest partner.

PWA engages people living with HIV/AIDS in enhancing their health and well-being through practical and therapeutic support services and broader social change, and inspires them to live into their dreams and discoveries. One of the programs they offer their clients is the Essentials Market. This is PWA’s food bank which provides staple food items, fresh produce, pet food, home start-up items, family hampers, special needs supplies such as baby items, health and beauty supplies and special diet accommodations based on availability. Participants can access the market twice a month. Second Harvest has delivered over 480,000 pounds of fresh, surplus food to PWA, providing healthy food to their clients.

New Family to Canada – Turkey Drive, Food Recipients

Each winter we partner with Loblaws to run our holiday foodraising campaign, Turkey Drive. Thousands of frozen turkeys are raised, thanks to the support of our grocery retail partner, volunteers, shoppers and generous donors.

Those turkeys are distributed to our network of social service agencies who either prepare the turkeys as part of their meal program or send the turkeys home with clients from their food bank program.

One winter we received a note from a very thankful family, who had only recently arrived in Canada to settle and start a better life for themselves. The mom wrote in and explained that someone in their community had connected them to a Second Harvest partner agency for food support because they were having a tough time.

At the agency they received a frozen turkey. Cooking a turkey, and all the fixings, was not something the family was familiar with in their culture. At the agency, the cook showed her how to prepare the turkey and all that goes with it and explained the North American tradition. It was the very first time her family had ever a proper, holiday meal. The mom told us how the delicious meal nourished her family, but even more - it was at that moment that they truly felt Canadian.

Jennifer – Young Food Recipient

Growing up in Edmonton, Jennifer had a rough and unstable home environment. As a young teenager she made the decision to leave her abusive home environment and start a new life in Toronto. She was alone in the city, with no friends or family to guide her, she enrolled in school but couldn’t afford to continue her studies while supporting herself so she dropped out and fell into very hard times.

When she discovered a Second Harvest partner agency she found a community that gave her healthy meals and she was surrounded by women who empowered her. With the food and emotional support she received, Jennifer was able to finish school and gain employment in her field.

Now, Jennifer is happy and thanks Second Harvest, “Because of the generous food donations from Second Harvest, I was able to get back on my feet and learn how to live an independent, healthy life. It inspired me to live my life to my fullest potential."

Palliative Care Food Recipients

A palliative care facility that we support received turkeys, potatoes, vegetables and fresh bread about a week before Christmas. The cook at the agency made a warm, holiday meal for the dozen clients who lived at the centre.

For some clients, the facility workers are their only friends or family, as they are isolated or have been forgotten. The staff at the facility expressed their sincere gratitude for the food donations received from Second Harvest.

“For most of our clients, this is the last Christmas meal they will enjoy. It’s important and meaningful to provide good food and dignity to people to the very end.”

Bob Blumer – Gastronaut, Celebrity Chef, Producer, Author, Guinness World Record Holder, Second Harvest Ambassador

Bob Blumer is best known for his toastermobile, the original food truck, and as host of Food Network shows Glutton for Punishment, World’s Weirdest Restaurants and more.

Almost 7 years ago Bob started donating his time volunteering for Second Harvest as host of our premier culinary fundraiser Toronto Taste. Since then, he has helped us raised funds and awareness to support our food rescue program.

As a business school graduate, Bob often touts the efficiency of Second Harvest’s food rescue model. He loves that we prevent good food from going to waste, but even better, for just $1 donated we can provide 2 meals to people experiencing hunger.

“When the possibility arose to lend my support in a more meaningful way to Second Harvest Toronto, I jumped at the opportunity.”

Paola Guarnieri, Toronto Wholesale Produce Association, Food Donor

Shortly after Paola started working with the Toronto Wholesale Produce Association at the Ontario Food Terminal, the largest wholesale fruit and produce distribution centre in Canada, management approached the wholesalers with the idea of starting a structured food rescue program.

Those who work in the food industry truly understand what goes into producing and distributing the food we eat. They hate to see it wasted. Everyone at the Toronto Wholesale Produce Association, which represents 21 wholesalers at the Terminal, has an immense respect for the food they work with every day. When they learned that they could easily connect fresh, surplus food with those in need in the city they immediately jumped onboard.

The wholesalers start their day at 4am, very quickly selling and moving about 5 million pounds of food each day to chefs, grocers and distributors. There’s a good chance that something you ate today made its way through the Terminal. At the end of the day when there is good, surplus food that is not sellable the wholesalers drop it off at the designated food rescue spot. Last year the wholesalers at the Terminal donated more than 187,000 pounds of good produce

Sami Mendes – Young Fundraiser

At age five, Sami is one of Second Harvest's youngest donors. For his fifth birthday, Sami held an ECHOage party where he donated half of his birthday money to Second Harvest. Sami's donation of $155.50 enabled us to rescue and deliver 311 meals to Torontonians in need. Sami and his parents, Neil and Iram, also volunteered for our annual foodraising event, Turkey Drive.

In 2014 Sami was presented with Second Harvest’s Ian Lawson Van Toch Outstanding Youth Award. He is one of the youngest winners of a volunteer award at the organization. His passion for helping others is truly inspiring.

Click hereto see a video of Sami

Bob – Program Manager, Second Harvest Agency Partner

Every day Bob takes on an important role at a large community agency. And that’s making sure everyone who walks through the door feels welcomed.

Bob is the Manager of a drop in program that provides a safe haven from the streets for people who are homeless; unable to work because of illness or disability and those who are struggling to support themselves. The agency serves approximately 150 meals a day. The majority of that food comes from Second Harvest.

Before coming to work at Evangel Hall Mission, Bob worked in advertising for 30 years. After being downsized out of a job, he dabbled in odd jobs while volunteering at the Out of the Cold Program at his local church. Unable to find work in his field, his volunteer job eventually led him to where he is today.

“Dealing with people now instead of things, man, do I ever enjoy it! I walk home at the end of every day feeling like a million bucks because of what I’ve accomplished that day with people,” he says.

“Second Harvest allows us to help people who can’t do it for themselves either because of physical, mental or economic reasons. They are treated as equals and as individuals and we feed them the way they should be fed every single day.”

Food is the foundation of the service the agency provides.

“People know that they can get a good, nutritious meal here. We’re known for our good food, and how we serve it,” says Bob with pride. “Second Harvest is essential to our operation. If we stopped getting food from Second Harvest we’d have to end our food program.”

“Everybody has a right to a meal,” says Bob. “Second Harvest allows us to help people who can’t do it for themselves either because of physical, mental or economic reasons. They are treated as equals and as individuals and we feed them the way they should be fed every single day.”

Homeless Teen – Eva’s Phoenix, Second Harvest Partner Agency

Eva's Phoenix provides housing for 50 youth, aged 16 to 24 years, for up to a full year, and since 2002 has also allowed up to 160 youth each year, aged 16 to 29 years, to participate in its employment and pre-apprenticeship programs. Working with business, labour and community partners, Eva's Phoenix provides homeless and at-risk youth with the opportunities needed to develop life skills, build careers and live independently.

My name is Lauren, I am writing on behalf of Eva’s Phoenix. Here is a story about some of our youth that have been helped by your agency.

We receive our food delivery every Sunday afternoon. One resident in particular is an excellent cook; he and a few other teens in our shelter are always there to help out with the food delivery. They help out unloading all the boxes, laughing and talking about all the different things they could cook with the food that comes in. These residents often get together and cook community meals with the food that comes in on Sundays. Food tends to bring people and the food delivery definitely does that here. It is great to see the residents sharing, bonding and working together over meals.

Nahla – Out-of-Town Food Recipient

Nahla is a woman who we didn’t expect to help. She’s from a small town in Northern Ontario. She was diagnosed with breast cancer and sent to Toronto for treatment. Unfortunately, her family could not afford to accompany her during her months-long stay in the city.

Alone in an unfamiliar city and going through rigorous cancer treatment was incredibly stressful. Added to that, it was expensive to stay here especially since she wasn’t able to work. Nahla had a hard time paying for groceries so someone turned her to a Second Harvest partner agency.

There she received, not just supplemental food support, but good quality, healthy food. Exactly the kind of food her body needed to help fight the horrible disease she was battling.

So while we never expected the food we rescue and deliver to end up with a woman receiving cancer treatment, originally from Northern Ontario, when we received Nahla’s incredible thankful note, it made us realize that you never know the face of hunger.

Giovanni - Young Soccer Player, Cabbagetown Youth Centre, Second Harvest Partner Agency

Developed about 17 years ago to address the issue of latch key children in Cabbagetown, today the Cabbagetown Youth Centre's after-school program serves about 100 children out of CYC's two sites. CYC staff walk the children safely from their neighbourhood schools to the centre, where they receive a healthy snack (provided by Second Harvest), complete their homework, and participate in recreational activities.

"During the school year the weekly food donation we receive from Second Harvest helps to supplement the After-Four snack program and provides additional snacks for our early years programs," reports Program Coordinator, June Charles. "The food donation is essential because all CYC programs are offered free of charge. You are to be commended for your generosity."

We were very touched to receive a packet of thank-you cards crafted by the kids who attend CYC's After-Four snack program, letting us know how much they appreciate the food we supply them.

"I like when you donate all the food to help us grow up and get strong and I want to be a soccer player when I grow up. If nobody gave us tasty food, we would be starving badly." - Giovanni

Roger Mooking – Celebrity Chef, Recording Artist, Second Harvest Ambassador

Roger Mooking, who can be seen on cooking shows Everyday Exotic and Chopped Canada on Food Network Canada, and internationally on Heat Seekers and Man Fire Food, is a proud ambassador for Second Harvest.

Almost 40% of Second Harvest food recipients are children or youth. As a father of four young girls himself, that hits home. After many years volunteering for the organization he further partnered with Second Harvest to raise awareness of child hunger right here in Toronto.

“As a father of four, I know how much food kids really need,” he said. “I think people perceive child hunger as something that happens in another part of the world, like Africa or Syria, not Toronto.”

Roger, formally trained at George Brown Culinary School, is now Executive Chef of Twist restaurant at Pearson International Airport and feeds hungry travellers in that role every day. In his role as Second Harvest Ambassador he understands the connection between nourishment and a child’s ability to focus on school work, get a good night’s sleep, play sports and lead healthy, happy lives.

Joe – Diabetic, Food Recipient

Joe is an older gentleman with a heart as big as the sun. When he comes to the drop in centre at a Second Harvest partner agency on Sundays the staff know they are in store for a joke of the day and some pretty good ‘old days’ stories.

Joe lives on a fixed income and struggles to survive with diabetes each and every day. It is certain that he will not gain employment because of his health problems and limitations. So he will probably continue to struggle for the rest of his days. He is a great fellow and knows a lot of the other clients who come to the centre.

Unfortunately the cost of living is too great and sometimes he has no food at home. He insists that he help out to give back to the community and as we all know, every little bit counts. He will help clear the tables of dishes and disinfect tables at his own pace. Because of his health, we try to accommodate him with light duties so he can contribute and still feel empowered.

At the end of the day we offer him some food, donated by Second Harvest, that he can take home to help him make it through another week. We have tried to let him know that he doesn’t have to help out and we are here to provide a service, but he is full of pride and insists on helping out around the centre.

Riley, Kate & Dylan – Young Fundraisers

One day last summer while opening the mail we received this cute photo, along with a note and a cheque for $70.

The note that accompanied this picture said:

“Dear Second Harvest, we raised $70 for your charity by selling lemonade. From: Riley, Kate and Dylan.”

Three kids spent a whole day one weekend selling lemonade to raise funds for our food rescue program. Thanks to their philanthropic spirit and kindness, they raised enough funds to provide 140 meals for people experiencing hunger in Toronto, some of them kids as well.

We were so moved and inspired by these young fundraisers!