Happy New Year! I know we’re only a few days into 2016, but I hope that this new year has been treating you kindly so far.
I love the feeling at this time of year: the optimism, hope and excitement of what the future may bring. I admit, I don’t really bother making formal new year resolutions; I’ve always believed that you can make positive changes at any point in your life. But when January rolls around, it feels good to look at the year ahead and reflect on what you want out of it.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want my 2016 to look like, and I decided I want to devote more time volunteering to support causes I care about. In December, I learned about the Toronto Vegetarian Food Bank and was instantly moved by their passion and dedication to make vegan and vegetarian food accessible for all. Not only did I decide that I wanted to spend time supporting them in the new year, I also wanted to share their mission here on my blog.
The Toronto Vegetarian Food Bank (TVFB) is a registered not-for-profit organization that is 100% volunteer-run and provides high quality vegetarian and vegan food to those in need. The TVFB has been operating for one year and was established by Matt Noble.
I reached out to Matt and asked if he’d be interested in doing a Q&A for my blog. I think what the TVFB is doing is extremely important, and I am honoured to share their story. Here’s the full Q&A.
What were some of the TVFB’s biggest achievements in 2015?
First of all, we’ve gone from serving 38 people in January 2015 to serving 150+ people every month since August. In fact, as of our last food bank for 2015, we have now served 1400 people total, which translates in to 20,000+ meals worth of all-vegan food in the last year.
Also, we are actually surpassing our goal of having 50% of our offerings be fresh whole foods and are now providing closer to 60% fresh whole foods (something unheard of at regular food banks). Every month our clients are leaving the food bank with big bags of fresh, healthy, eco-friendly, cruelty-free food and big smiles on their faces.
Many of our clients who have serious health issues that were compounded by the poor food they received at regular food banks have been so thankful for this chance at better health. We’ve seen tears of joy from vegetarian and vegan clients so relieved to find a place where they can get food that doesn’t compromise their deepest held beliefs of compassion for all. Meanwhile, others have been thrilled to receive the assistance they need to try going veg or even switch from being vegetarian to vegan.
What were some of the biggest challenges? Or some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned?Our one great challenge as a 100% volunteer-run organization has been fundraising. We currently need to raise at least $2000 a month to feed our 150+ clients, which is pretty difficult to do on our spare time – not to mention the fact that the cost of food has skyrocketed in the last year (which was really noticeable on our bills this December).
Even after being open for a year now we are still always just trying to keep up with funding month to month. When anyone asks to volunteer I always ask if they can plan and spear-head a fundraising initiative. Funding is the area that we really need help in.
I can’t say I’ve learned many specific lessons because we started the food bank with a “just go for it and make it happen” kind of attitude and that is still our approach one year later. All we can do is just wake up every morning and do our best to keep this much needed initiative going.
This is one of the amazing things about being part of a volunteer-run initiative though: This food bank wouldn’t be possible without the support of all our donors, sponsors and volunteers. It takes a lot of people, each doing their own little part, to keep this food bank funded and running. I really have gotten to meet so many amazing people through TVFB.
What are TVFB’s plans for the new year?
Fundraising is always keeping us very busy, which I imagine will continue being the case throughout 2016.
That said, I do have some exciting things planned. The big idea for the year is still in the planning phase, so I can’t say anything about that, but I do have plans for the food bank to co-produce a live/video series on veg nutrition, which is partly underway. And, of course, we are planning some fun fundraising events! 🙂 Oh! And we will be doing a 30hr #Fast4Hunger fundraiser in the next few months – so keep an eye out for that!
How can we get involved?
What we really need is people who can help us raise money. Helping with fundraising usually shows a lot of creativity and commitment, so people who help with fundraising often become a big part of the core team. It’s also great for us to know if there are people who have vehicles that can help on days where we are short on drivers. And, of course, people can volunteer to help at the food bank. People can email us and just give us a little blurb about themselves and a short description of why and how they want to help @ TOvegfoodbank@gmail.com
Huge thanks to Matt for responding to my questions, and of course for all of the amazing work he does with TVFB. If you’re interested in learning more about their organization, you can visit their website, or connect with them out on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
A direct link to make a donation to the TVFB can be found here.