IMPACT

Toronto Vegetarian Food Bank Adds A Kinder Option For People In Need

02/05/2015 01:50 EST | Updated 02/05/2015 01:59 EST

Apparently $100 buys a lot of vegetarian food.

“We’ve been amazed when we go shopping and we’re buying bags of rice and lentils, how much stuff we have in our cart for $100,” says Matthew Noble, director of the Toronto Vegetarian Food Bank (TVFB), tells The Huffington Post Canada.

The Toronto-based animal activist, along with other volunteers, just started the new program, motivated by what he sees as the lack of options for vegans and vegetarians at existing food banks in the city.

“It’s not more expensive to buy vegetarian food and have vegetarian options, and there aren't any, really, so we’re just trying to fill that void,” he says.

Based out of the Yonge Street Mission in the city's downtown area, the once-a-month pop-up sprung up out of the Ontario Vegetarian Food Bank, which closed in 2013 after its founder died.

An Indiegogo campaign to fund the new food bank raised over $10,000, and some local businesses ran fundraisers to chip in.

The money allowed volunteers to buy a good supply of non-perishable food from big grocery chains. The Ontario Food Terminal board also donated a free yearly buyer's card, meaning Noble gets access to the same produce pricing as restaurants and grocery stores. Another local food bank donated bread.

On opening day last Saturday, the food bank served 36 people, as well as a few users of the Yonge Street Mission who trickled in to eat some soup. The rest of the facility is closed on Saturdays.

“Everyone had big bags of healthy food, everyone left with a huge smile on their face, like, wow, this is a food bank, crazy!” Noble says.

He’s still considering running it twice a month, and hopes to work with social justice group No One Is Illegal to ensure access for undocumented immigrants.

“It’d be hard for someone who’s not a citizen, to provide ID or a proof of address or a work stub," Noble explains.

He also sees the initiative as a way to inject healthier food into the food bank system. Following a precedent set by the Ontario Vegetarian Food Bank, he tries to stick to a 50 per cent whole, fresh food rule.

The Yonge Street Mission also benefits. Leftover food is donated to the organization’s own bank, and users can also get access to the TVFB for the week it's open.

“We’re just making the food bank system bigger and better."

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