Tonight Ellen was joined by special guest host, Riley. Ellen began by setting the tone for the evening and asking Riley about what she had for breakfast. Ellen went on to say how most of us are so lucky to be able to open the refrigerator and grab a bite to eat at our leisure, while many are not.
More than ever, Canadians are using food banks and food services to help them. Many of us take this for granted, but not Neil Hetherington. Neil is the CEO of The Daily Bread Food Bank, one of Canada’s largest food banks supporting over 200 food programs and serving more than 200,000 client visits per month. The Daily Bread Food Bank is a national leader in research that examines the causes and impacts of food insecurity.
Neil is not new to this job. He was the CEO of Habitat for Humanity for 16 years. Then went to Dixon Hall as their CEO. Neil’s late grandfather, General Arnold Brown, was the International Leader of the Salvation Army. This was Neil’s introduction into the world of helping others.
Neil was named one of Canada’s Top 40 under 40 along with receiving many distinguished Alumni of the year awards. He was even awarded Queen Elizabeth’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee medals. In 2018, he was awarded the Premier’s Award for Outstanding Ontario College graduates for excellence in business and named one of Toronto’s most influential people by Toronto Life Magazine.
Neil spoke about the growing problem of food insecurity in our city. While 1/10 Torontonians used the food bank last year, the year before it was just 1/20. He quoted Bryan Stevenson stating, “the opposite of poverty is not wealth, it’s justice”. He went on to explain how he sees every visit to the food bank as a policy failure. Neil stated the shocking fact that 59% of current users have had a post graduate education! He sees the current problem as a result of a few issues; lack of affordable housing being a big issue. With the poverty line at $2300/month, many people find that they are too rich to qualify for benefits, yet still require income support.
Neil offered a few solutions. We can make a difference by having this conversation and advocating for change. Short term solutions include food raisers and fundraisers, which give back to the community. But for long term solutions, Neil encouraged us to write to government officials. Let them know that they are failing on poverty reduction. Things need to change and if they don’t, these officials can be voted out.
When donating food items, provide things you would want to enjoy. They must be non-perishable, and check expiry dates. Cash donations are used to purchase 67% of fresh food items that are required.
Riley sweetly shared how her family does their part by having a food library, taking part in food drives at school and routinely carrying bars of food to help the homeless.
While they both shared with us how we can feed others, Halle Burnett fed our souls with her stunning voice and heart. Halle performed the song, ‘The Climb’, by Miley Cyrus.
Lianne and Cassandra topped off the night with Kindness Corner and told us about an initiative that they have going on. The ‘Goodies Project’ is a program dedicated to promoting charities that fight hunger. With this project, schools work together to fight against food insecurities. Currently, Northern Secondary School is running a food drive from December 11-15. They are asking for food items to be donated, with all proceeds going directly to the Daily Bread Food Bank.
As the season of giving begins, please consider helping the Daily Bread Food Bank feed so many.
Let’s be kind to one another. Let’s embrace one another and let’s learn from one another.