Securing healthy food
The Teesdale Food Bank helps people eat a balanced diet
In Ontario, 64% of all people on social assistance experience food insecurity. The number is assuredly greater in Toronto. With the cost of nutritious food on the rise, food banks like the one at Teesdale have become essential to help people living in poverty maintain balanced diets.
Operated in partnership with the Daily Bread Food Bank, the Teesdale Food Bank is located in a priority neighbourhood and provides healthy food from all food groups to seniors, people with mental health issues, newcomers, refugees and people who are unemployed.
During the pandemic, the Food Bank has remained open to ensure access to nutritious food, a basic human right.
Harriet lived alone for 38 years and was grateful to find the Food Bank located right across the street from her apartment. “Walking to the grocery store is really challenging and the prices are so expensive on my limited budget. The staff and volunteers at Teesdale treat me with respect and I get everything I need…milk, eggs, bread, vegetables and other Halal food. The Food Bank meets the needs of the diverse group of people in this community.”
Catherine came from Cameroon with her four young children. With no family here and Catherine working on her Bachelor of Education degree, life was a struggle. “As a single mother, I rely on the Food Bank to get enough healthy food for my family. I look forward to when I’ll have a job and can give back. But today, I just want to thank the donors for their big hearts.”
people each year maintain healthy diets by receiving nutritious food from the Teesdale Food Bank
“If we wanted to have another child, we can’t”
Families struggle to afford the astronomical cost of childcare in Toronto. We advocate on their behalf.
The cost of childcare in Toronto is skyrocketing. Need proof? Look at these numbers
That’s the increase in childcare fees since 2014 – six times the increase in inflation.
That’s the cost for infant care in Toronto - almost 1/3 of the city’s median household income.
That’s the number of children in Toronto who belong to low-income families – yet only 8% of families in Toronto receive childcare subsidies.
Simply put, Childcare in Toronto is not affordable for the people who need it most. We have always advocated on behalf of parents and families, but this year, we took it to a new level.
Key to the campaign was the city’s fall budget. We worked with The Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care and the Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario to create awareness about the high cost of childcare. That meant online petitions, letters to city councillors, interviews with Global, CBC and other mainstream media, the creation of @TWEforchildcare, a Facebook group run by two of our west-end childcare parents, social media blasts and deputations to the city’s Economic and Community Development Committee.
One of our childcare parents, Carolina, spoke to the Committee about her struggles. “We were shocked and frustrated when we saw the price of childcare. We didn’t qualify for a fee subsidy and had to make hard decisions to afford rent and childcare. We had to live in a small one-bedroom apartment, sell the car, and couldn’t visit our families overseas. We were living paycheque to paycheque and ran up credit card debt until my husband got a better-paying job. The price for daycare in Toronto is so high that even if we want to have another child, we can’t.”
Our advocacy goes beyond the affordability of childcare. We support fair pay and decent work for Early Childhood Educators, and with COVID-19 among us, we advocated for the safe reopening of childcare centres to ensure the health and well-being of children, parents and staff.
Never before have we seen such a public discussion of the vital importance of childcare to our families, and to our economy. We are truly proud of our parents advocating for change in this local and national debate.
$1,675 Per Month
$175 Per Month
the cost of childcare in Toronto is 10 times the cost in Montreal
Taking action to help people on the margins
Fighting to save the ODSP
When the Provincial government proposed to narrow the definition of disability in the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), people were worried to say the least. Life was tough enough with the current benefit amount but the proposed change would result in a nearly 60% drop in income. The choice between paying for rent, food and medicine would become impossible.
At The Neighbourhood Group, the choice was simple: Fight to maintain the ODSP. The campaign started with the Corner Drop-in Member Advocacy Committee (MAC). MAC members like Marie worked tirelessly to create and administer a survey to drop-in users across Toronto. “For new people trying to get on ODSP, it could be a problem. People we surveyed were very worried they would become destitute and fall into depression, crime and suicide.” MAC members spread the word by writing letters to MPPs and Provincial Ministers. Media took up the case and the Toronto Star published a story about the survey and the effect of the cuts.
But the survey was only one tactic: Working with coalitions like Defend Disability and the ODSP Action Coalition, we were able to strengthen our collective voice. We spoke to a network of local physicians and nurses called the Mid-West Sub-Region Primary and Community Care Committee, and urged them to speak to the Province.
Our actions were one part of the push to restore the ODSP. The voices of thousands of organizations and people continue to reverberate across the Province to help people on ODSP maintain their health and dignity.
Proposed cuts to ODSP would result in a 60% drop in income
Helping people stay connected
The Easy Access Voicemail Project offers low cost voicemail to people in need
Voicemail. It’s a service that many of us take for granted. But think what life’s like for people who can’t afford it: Employers couldn’t leave messages about job interviews. Doctors couldn’t tell you about appointments or answer questions about prescriptions. And during emergencies, you might not receive life-saving updates for yourself or your loved ones. The Neighbourhood Group found a solution to the problem: Easy Access Voicemail.
Since 1994, we’ve offered personal voicemail for over 700 vulnerable people each year to help them stay connected.
people stay connected each year with affordable voice mail
Touhida Choudhury, Easy Access Voice Mail Project Coordinator, helps people stay in touch with friends, family, doctors, case workers and employers.
Voicemail is invaluable to me. Before, it was difficult to receive important telephone messages. Now, I can make and follow up on appointments, register for programs, find employment and keep in touch with employers and friends. – Patrick
I was in an abusive relationship. When my partner left, he cut me off his phone plan and left me incommunicado. I remembered the red and gold flyer about voicemail and signed up. Now I use it when I send out resumes, and give it out when I network. It’s helped me immeasurably! – Fernanda
Getting smart about finances
Our SmartCash project helps vulnerable people break the cycle of debt
Predatory lenders prey on people in low-income households, offering ready cash at exorbitant rates. This isn’t new. What is, is SmartCash.
Similar to the response to the Syrian refugee crisis, SmartCash is an innovation from The Neighbourhood Group Foundation. The goal is to improve vulnerable people’s financial stability by offering in-house cheque cashing. But SmartCash doesn’t stop there: In phase two, we will offer cash-advances and micro-loans at little or no interest. These services will help us provide a better option than dishonest lenders, educate people on financial literacy and connect them with reputable financial institutions.
SmartCash is possible not only through the ingenuity of the Foundation, but also by its willingness to back the project by covering any fees, losses and staff. Nor can the generosity of our partners be ignored. Alterna Bank is providing back-end support while Gilchrist installed the ATM and waived their fees.
The impact of SmartCash will be felt by the struggling people we serve, putting them on the path to financial independence.
fees for SmartCash cheque cashing helps low-income people improve financial stability