Take Care of Each Other

Ten years ago, I was working in marketing at a leading financial services firm when I was introduced to one of the charities the company supported. I learned that there was an organization picking up surplus food and delivering that food to hungry people, right here in our city. Fast forward, and I am now one of the twenty staff members who work in the office at Second Harvest. My job is to support my fundraising and foodraising colleagues as we fulfill our mission. When I’m creating a brochure, making changes to our website, or speaking to a reporter, I often think about the why. Why is this brochure important? Why do our drivers wake up early every morning to fight traffic? Why do our fundraisers put in many hours of overtime to achieve goals? It has occurred to me that our motivation is shared. We all do this so we can help our struggling neighbours with the most basic human need - food.  We come together because we have a strong desire to take care of each other.

When I first joined the organization I thought I knew who I’d be helping. I envisioned the many homeless people I had passed in the downtown core for so many years. Not long after I started here, we received a letter from a woman who lived in Northern Ontario. She told us how she had to stay in the city for many months to receive breast cancer treatment and her family could not afford to join her. She was sick and alone, in an unfamiliar city. Because finances were tight, she turned to a community agency that received food from Second Harvest. In her letter, she expressed tremendous gratitude for the nutritious, fresh food she received and that her body needed. I would never have thought we’d be feeding someone from so far away or someone in that situation. It opened my eyes to the many, often silent, neighbours who would go hungry if not for the food this organization rescued and delivered.

“Each action you take to support Second Harvest demonstrates your care for the people we serve”

For those familiar with Second Harvest, there is a sense of pride when you see a white truck with the green symbol of merging forks, and ‘food rescue’ emblazoned on the front, driving down the road.
Last year, while on maternity leave, walking around my neighbourhood with my son, I was so proud to see a Second Harvest truck parked in front of Fort York Food Bank. I walked past a man, who looked a little older than me, but frail and with a strong limp, walking out of the food bank with his son. The boy was about 7 or 8 years old, and he was pulling a wire shopping cart, filled with grocery bags of food. He was skipping and smiling. The juxtaposition of the stress on the father’s face and the naïve joy on the son’s face was an image I will never forget. I wanted to take care of them. I found solace in knowing that, for dinner that evening and breakfast the next morning, they were taken care of.
I often think about that boy, that woman, and all of those who receive food through our partner agencies. When they are struggling, with the challenges of living in poverty, or mental health issues, or addictions, or abuse, and they are feeling the emptiness in their stomachs, do they wonder – does anyone care? I hope when they walk through the doors of their local meal program or food bank that they see that people do care. I hope they feel the motivation of every single Second Harvest staff member, donor and volunteer.
I hope that they feel the care that goes into every minute of volunteering, every hour of work, every dollar donated. We have more than fifty social service agencies on our waiting list, which can be daunting, but I’m motivated by this group of dedicated and caring people who work hard to rescue food every day. This group, that I am proud to be a part of, as we collectively work to take care of each other.