We all know it – it’s been a whole year. In 2020 right at the beginning of the pandemic, we had a chat with our friends at The Stop Community Food Centre and supported their work through our Feaster dinner. Now, Feaster returns and so does our chat with The Stop. This time around, we’re chatting about their new #TheNext10000 campaign, how women have been affected differently during the pandemic, and what’s inspiring them right now.
What is your #TheNext10000 campaign?
Maria Rio, Director of Development and Communications
The Toronto Foundation’s Fall Out Report recently looked at ten key metrics, measured over seven months, to determine who in Toronto has been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. They found that:
- People earning less than $30,000 were 5.3 times more likely to be affected by COVID than those with incomes above $150,000. Many people with lower incomes are essential workers, unable to self-isolate, and forced to work on-site and in close proximity to others.
- Toronto’s rates of food insecurity were staggering before the pandemic, and there is now widespread concern that food organizations won’t have the money to sustain operations—let alone meet the needs of subsequent waves.
One of the communities we work in, Davenport West, has a median after-tax income of just $27,338 per year. Every day, people in our community are making the impossible choice of paying rent and sheltering themselves through the winter, or purchasing food.
While many food banks and services closed at the beginning of the pandemic, we remained open and kept up with increased demand of our services. Since April 2020, we have provided 50,000 meals to community members, and are projecting to serve 10,000 more than we do in a non-COVID year.
#TheNext10000 is our campaign to provide meals to the next 10,000 community members who come to us in need. We are trying to raise 50,000 for their meals and for those after them, as we know the need is higher than ever. Right now, The Arrell Family Foundation is matching gifts made to this campaign. They are proud to support The Stop as part of their mission to Improve Human and Planetary Health Through Food.
Join us in supporting our community.
How have you noticed women have been affected differently during the last year?
Christina Rousseau, Healthy Families Team Lead
In the early months of the pandemic reports surfaced looking at the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on women, whether that is due to paid job loss, fears of domestic violence, an increase of domestic labour in the home, or increased exposure to COVID-19 for essential workers (a group that is overrepresented by Black women and women of colour). In reading about these impacts on women more broadly, we were interested in learning more about the ways in which participants in our Healthy Beginnings perinatal program have been impacted over the past year.
Like the broader population, the majority of our participants lost out on some form of family income – whether their own income or that of their partner. While a large number of the broader population was able to offset some of this loss of income with CERB or some other type of government support, 63% of our participants were not eligible for any kind of income support. This is because a lot of our participants are non-status, so the precarious position they find themselves in has been intensified because of the pandemic. Many also became sole-support parents for a period of time during the last year because their partners were unexpectedly stuck in their home country when flights were canceled at the beginning of the pandemic.
Aside from providing material supports to our participants, a major aim of our program is to help break down social isolation. Many new parents experience social isolation after their baby is born, and for our participants this is isolation is often deepened because of the fact that they are newcomers to Canada, and therefore don’t have the broader network of community and family supports that many new parents have. Add the fear and restrictions associated with leaving the home during the pandemic, and it’s easy to see why the majority of our participants have expressed feelings of isolation, depression, and anxiety. We have tried to be a source of connection and support to the moms in our program during the pandemic, and have had to be creative with this because we are restricted in terms of spending time with our participants in person. We do get to see many of them for a brief period of time when they come to collect their food hamper. It’s nice to have a brief check-in, ask them how they are doing, and give them positive words of encouragement. Our Family Support team has been working hard to connect with our participants through weekly wellness phone calls, bringing moms together on a group WhatsApp chat so they can connect with each other, and organizing fun and interactive workshops on Zoom. Sometimes it feels difficult to do the work we do every day, but when we hear feedback from participants and the positive impact the program has had in their lives, we know it’s all worth it: “The support we receive makes all the difference in our lives. You care about our family; our mental, emotional and physical health.” Adriana, Healthy Beginnings participant
We know it’s not perfect; for us, it’s hard to replace the type of connection we would normally have with our participants in our program space. But what has been very rewarding is seeing the connections the moms are making with each other, and how they are able to support each other. It makes us proud to see women in our program stepping up and creating communities of support.
Who are some women in your community who are inspiring you right now?
Monica Bettson, Community Chef
Women that inspire me: my coworkers! Around 80% of my coworkers are women, including management, fellow chefs and other program coordinators. Many of them are moms or caregivers on top of their full-time jobs, and they show up every day and put 100% effort into their job. The skills, empathy and strength they bring to our workplace always amazes and inspires me.