Friday, July 3, 2015

"Fruits and Veggies For Everyone!" One Toronto Food Bank's Main Mission

With so many health industry professionals talking about the benefits of a vegetarian diet these days, it's become clear why more people are making the move towards a vegetarian lifestyle. As more and more of us opt to implement "Meatless Mondays" or "Meat-Free Weeks" some take the step towards a full vegan or vegetarian diet for either ethical or health reasons.


While research shows the benefits of a plant-based diet, there are some road blocks that might prevent a person from implementing these changes in their lifestyle. While some cite lack of will power or the need for protein as their reason for shying away from a vegetarianism, for others eating healthy is just too expensive of a lifestyle change.
For many of us, the cost of food is not too much of a consideration in our daily lives, but for others in our city, it is a constant struggle to put any food on the table, let alone ensure that they are following personal dietary requirements.
Recently, one inspiring Torontonian has taken his belief in the power of a vegetarian diet further by making some innovative moves to ensure that this lifestyle choice is accessible to everyone in our city, regardless of their income bracket. 
Matt Noble, founded the Toronto Vegetarian Food Bank which opened in January 2015. Along with a team of volunteers, he works to make healthy, vegetarian and vegan foods available to people in our city who are in need of assistance.

Here I share some excerpts from my chat with Matt where he shared his inspiration and shed some light on vegetarianism as well as what he hopes to achieve with the launch of the Food Bank.
What inspired you to start a vegetarian food bank?
On a personal level, I believe that the world is a pretty harsh place and that a lot of the people who are struggling get pushed to the edges of society by pretty sad and often violent circumstances – whether they be political, economic, or personal. Since food is so essential to our health and vitality, I thought it would be a good place to start giving back.

Because I’m vegan myself I don’t want to endorse the consumption of meat, eggs, or dairy and since vegetarians and vegans are so under-served at regular food banks it made sense for me to start a food bank that focuses on people who are adopting the vegetarian lifestyle. 

About two years ago I was working with the Ontario Vegetarian Food Bank and was working on opening a downtown location for them. Unfortunately, the founder of the OVFB, Malan Joseph, passed away in 2013 and the food bank consequently shut down.          
I had many meetings with Malan about opening a downtown branch of the food bank and also had meetings with his friend Jessica Smith, who helped him run the OVFB since it opened in 2008.
Now, Jessica is one of the main advisors for the Toronto Vegetarian Food Bank, and our location at the Yonge Street Mission is actually the location I had originally secured for the Ontario Vegetarian Food Bank.
The TVFB is mostly new people, but in a lot of ways we are trying to carry the torch onwards.
Tell me about the organization. What are some of your goals?

Our main goal, actually, is to try to carry on the tradition of the Ontario Vegetarian Food Bank: Providing at least 50% fresh whole foods to our users. 

We know how important fresh plant foods are to our health and motivation and we want to provide people with food that we would be happy to eat.

We also want to create a sense of community where people feel safe and understood [especially in regards to their dietary choices].
Another one of our goals is to open up conversation about health, nutrition and the food industry. More vegetarians using our food bank just means there’s less strain on the resources at the other food banks
We are trying to help with food equity and are trying to provide more healthy food to those who are dependent on Food Banks. Most of the “fresh foods” at regular food banks right now are meat, eggs and dairy.
Do you think there has been a shift in the last few years towards vegetarianism? If so, to what do you attribute that change?


I’m not sure if there has been a big shift towards vegetarianism – but what I do think is happening is that people are opting for vegetarian and dairy-free options more often. Look at Tim Horton’s, they just finally got soy milk – and good on ‘em.


I think people are starting to come to terms with the fact that a lot of what they were told was healthy for them...really isn’t. And on top of that, because of the great work of undercover investigators, more and more people are becoming aware of the cruelty that is required in order to get milk, eggs and meat to our tables

Why is being vegetarian/vegan so important to you? Did you ever eat animal products? If so, what caused the shift?

I did eat meat, eggs and dairy for most of my life and when I was vegetarian I ate lots of cheese!

In my early twenties, I started learning about the environmental damage that was being caused by farming animals and I started cutting back right away. I had never thought about how much water was used and how much pollution was created by producing just one pound of meat!

The closer I moved towards a vegetarian diet, the more I started learning about health and all the politics/business behind the information we have been getting about what’s good for us to eat. That propelled me a bit more. And then, finally, it was learning about the depletion of our oceans that convinced me to cut meat and fish out for good.

About a year or so into my vegetarianism, my little sister introduced me to some animal protection groups and so I went vegan. Now animal protection is the reason for my veganism. [It's the reason]
that is closest to my heart.

Of course, it’s good to be healthy and we need to preserve the environment for every being [on Earth], but the suffering of the animals we exploit is so immediate and impending that you can’t shake it once you feel it – once you connect.
                                                                                          Watch a Day at the Toronto Vegetarian Food Bank
What kind of help will your organization be providing to those in need and how can they access that help?

Initially, we will be assessing and trying to meet the demand for food. If we can get that under control then perhaps we will be able to start helping with more.
Vegetarians and vegans who need to use the food bank can contact us at
 For hours of operation please see: http://tvfb.ca/qa/
We ask that people bring some I.D. and proof of income.

Our website is www.tvfb.ca

What do you want people to know about vegetarians/vegetarianism?
Well, people go veg for a variety of different reasons, so there’s no singular thing that can explain vegetarians or vegans.
But what I would want people to know is that vegetarian and vegan food is getting easier and easier to get – in grocery stores and at restaurants – and it’s good, delicious and nutritious food!
[I want people to know that] every time you choose a vegetarian or vegan option you are helping to preserve water and you're reducing your oil consumption. The amount of pollution caused by farming animals is so immense that cutting out animal products is one of the single greatest things we have the power to do to reduce our contribution to the depletion and pollution of our natural resources.

And every time you choose a vegetarian, or vegan option you reduce the demand for products and an industry that depend on the unnecessary exploiting and killing of other beings.

Important movies to watch would be Food Inc., Forks Over Knives, The Ghosts In Our Machine and The End Of The Line.

Important books to read if you're interested in learning more would be We AnimalsThe Thrive Diet,RawQuick & Delicious and The China Study 


How can the local community get involved with your efforts to get vegetarian food to those in need?

Our greatest obstacle right now is fundraising. We are doing corporate and public fundraising right now, but it is a long slow process. We have raised about $10, 000 dollars so far. And it’s a great start, but it won’t last very long.
We have the space and we have a lot of volunteers, so we just need money or food.
We are asking people to donate to our campaign 
http://tvfb.ca/donate/
          
If people can’t afford to donate, then we ask if you can kindly spread the word through social media. Or contact us if you have a fundraising idea and want to help, or if you just want to volunteer. We also have promotional opportunities on our website and social media pages for sponsors who donate $500+ in cash or food over the course of the year.


Check out our indiegogo campaign and pages:






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