Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Nabbing groceries from the Fort York Food Bank

It's on the south side of Dundas St. West. A couple blocks west of Bathurst. 211 has the wrong address for it. It's got a soup kitchen and food bank. If you qualify (by being poor and in the right area), you can grab a box of groceries once a week or something like that. If you can't prove anything about yourself, then maybe you can get a box of groceries once a month or once a year.

The first part of the process is to sign up with the person in the back who's co-ordinating the food bank. If you're not in the system yet, that's when you get interviewed and signed up. The person assigns you a tag with a number for that day. The numbers get called sometime around 12:30. The place is open until 2pm. It's open most days of the week. Not Monday. When your number gets called, you've got to present the tag to the person that's calling out the numbers, so that they can initial it or something. Then you can go into the food area, grab a box, and decide what you want.

In the food area, there's a bunch of types of food, and you get offered certain things. Typical things you'll find are: dried lentils and beans, canned veggies and soups, bread, milk, butter, peanut butter, maybe eggs, fruit, junk food, chocolates and candies, frozen meals, microwave popcorn, crackers and other packaged stuff, soft drinks, chips and dips, cooking and salad oils, dressings, maybe cheese... basically typical cheap grocery store stuff. There's not a lot of nuts, health foods, dairy or meat alternatives, or fresh produce. There's a lot of bread, canned stuff, and packaged stuff. It varies a lot from visit to visit. If you said yes to everything, you could walk out of there with a couple backpacks or a few shopping bags worth of food. About a third of it needs to be refrigerated. About half of it requires a kitchen for preparation. If you're a vegan, only about a quarter of the food will worth considering. If you're trying to stay organic, you'll be lucky to walk away with one or two items. If you're a vegetarian who doesn't mind eating cheap Monsanto food, you should be able to get a few meals per week out of the place.

The total time commitment for using the food bank is probably around two hours at the most. While you're waiting, there's coffee, tea and lunch available. There's also bathrooms and probably the worst internet access of any downtown drop-in. The atmosphere is tense but subdued. The location's close proximity to the cluster of meal programs and other services in the area make this a convenient place to grab groceries on a regular basis.

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