by Brennan J. Wimbish
A single mother raising two young girls in a two-bedroom apartment struggles to make rent payments on time. She’s been evicted once before and has been threatened with another eviction notice. In order to cope with the cost of living she and her girls go hungry two days a week.
Lynda Champagne, community director of the Daily Bread Food Bank affirms that this scenario is not uncommon among much of the poorer communities of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The reason—according to the annual report issued by the food bank—is that income for unemployed individuals has gone down but housing costs have gone up.
If you were to walk down Lakeshore Drive in downtown Toronto you might see a very large and slightly dilapidated looking warehouse. From its appearance, it doesn’t look like much except for the large sign on it reading: “Daily Bread Food Bank.” But to hundreds of needy people in the area, this warehouse has been a beacon in a dark, cold world for over fifteen years.
During the spring and fall months donations from the public come in steadily, however towards the summer months—June, July and August—donations dwindle to nearly one percent. “It’s during the summer that we experience the least amount of food donations.” remarked Champagne. This seriously impacts the output of food going to communities in need.
Nearly 80 percent of food bank recipients spend much of their meager income on rent, having very little left over for other needs like food and clothing. That’s the situation for most unemployed food bank clients. So when asked, “How much of a difference could one donation of canned food make in the life of a needy person,” Champagne leaned back in her chair with an enthusiastic smile on her face that said it all—“it makes a huge difference.”
Now imagine what kind of difference 60,000 or more donations of canned food can make. When faced with the possibility of that happening, Lynda’s face almost burst with exuberance. She explained that the food bank delivers food in “hampers,” or emptied boxes filled with canned food, rice and other snacks, which equal about 10 lbs. in weight and is equivalent to about three meals a day. “Do you realize that half of that amount,” she says pausing to whip out her calculator for a rough estimate, “would total 22,500 lbs. of food!” It’s almost too good to be true that at a time where food donations are the lowest in the year, an influx of donations on such a large scale would come at a critical time.
This year the Seventh-day Adventist world church gathered together for its 57th General Conference Session in Toronto. Over 60,000 Adventists representing the world converged at the SkyDome for two weeks of events. But they didn’t just come to restate positions on current issues, or vote in new officers, they took an active role in helping to supply the needs of those around them. “We want[ed] the Torontonians to know that we’re thankful for their hospitality,” remarked Charlotte McClure, public relations director for the General Conference. McClure went on to say, “The Adventist church has long emphasized the importance of humanitarian work, both on a local and international level.”
This is not the first time the Seventh-day Adventist Church has helped the Daily Bread Food Bank. Three Adventist churches and their Community Services centers in the Toronto area are involved in food distribution programs in their local neighborhoods, with some offering meals on a daily basis. This event, however, was the largest. Along with the Adventist churches in the area, local food stores and even the CN Tower joined in the effort to spread a message of hope to those in need. Jorge Carvalho, the supervisor of St. Lawrence Market, a local food store said, “It=s a great thing that the visitors are doing. I hope more visitors follow their example.” The CN Tower pledged to give one “loonie” (a Canadian dollar) for each Adventist that took a ride to the top of the tower.
The finale took place on the last Sabbath of the session when Adventists dropped off their canned goods at the SkyDome entrance to be taken to the food bank and shipped to the communities in need. “We’re supposed to help those less fortunate than us,” Henry Chin mentioned as he placed his plastic bag of canned vegetables in the large cardboard box. Many people brought canned beans, corn, and mixed vegetables as well as rice and dried packaged pasta. Joseph Deixeiro from Portugal commented, “I’m a Seventh-day Adventist, that’s why I give. I help everybody whether it’s food, clothes, or money. I’d want somebody to do the same thing for me if I needed it.” One couple from Midland, MI brought three grocery bags full of canned vegetables. “Any time we get a chance to help someone, we do,” they commented.
Three huge boxes were placed on the curb outside the SkyDome entrance in three different places so those who gave could have easy access to drop off their non-perishable items. Although the donations didn’t reach the 60,000 mark, smiles were still on the faces of the food bank collectors. “We didn’t have any expectations,” Charlotte McClure said. Just the fact that many people were willing to give what they had made a significant difference. They were nourishing hope for needy communities in the area.
Brennan J. Wimbish is a senior communication major at Oakwood College in Huntsville, AL.