When you have more than you need, build a bigger table – not a higher fence

For the past two weekends, the community food table at St. Matthew’s, 729 St. Clair West. has been a success. The need for food is real, and so is the desire to help.

And people really need help. Particularly now that so many are out of work, and so many people are living in poverty or have children at home and not enough money, or elders who are frightened to shop, or … there so many scenarios.

Lots of people have both taken and left food from the table.

I encourage you to start a food table in your neighbourhood.

It’s not as daunting as it sounds. Here’s how I did it:

  • Call or email one of your local politicians, or any organization that has a lot of members or followers. To spread the word, you first need to connect with a person or organization with a lot of contacts. For me, I emailed my local MPP, Jill Andrew, and was set up immediately with the help of people who could donate food, time, transportation, and an outdoor table or three.
  • Find a location. I contacted an LGBTQ friendly church in my riding, and asked if I could use a part of their parking lot to set up tables for food. They had a couple of very reasonable questions:
    • When would it operate? For us, Saturdays from 11am to 5pm, but you can choose any day or time that works for you and your community
  • Who would make sure it wasn’t unsightly or a mess? That would be me and the other volunteers. I made up a schedule for when people would drop by and make sure everything was tidy and that food hadn’t been left in bags.
  • What safety precautions were being taken? All of our volunteers wear masks and gloves and even shields. And except for brief moments arranging food, maintain a healthy distance from the table and those who approach it.
  • Explain it and promote it: I made some shout outs on social media, and Jill’s office sent out an email to her list. We’ve now got templates for social media graphics and signs for the table itself — they can be customized to any colours or format you need, and we’ll happily share with anybody who needs them.  Or ask around amongst your volunteers to find out if anybody can help with social media graphics and signs.
  • Watch it happen: From there, all the pieces come together. Community members knew when and where they could donate food and who they could contact if they had questions or wanted to volunteer.

It’s doable!

You may not be working in a hospital, long-term care home, or grocery store, but you CAN do something. You can have a positive impact.

It feels good to contribute.

The food table is for everyone and anyone can start one in your own area.

Go for it.

If you need to learn more or want to start a food table of your own, please feel free to email:  [email protected]

– Joanne Vannicola

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