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Flemingdon Park food bank in crisis

Tab for back rent puts future of social service in jeopardy
By Omar Mosleh

June 13, 2012

Neighbourhoods: Flemingdon Park / Thorncliffe Park

Originally published in our Leaside-Rosedale print edition(s).

Flemingdon3.jpg
The Flemingdon Community Food Bank is issuing an urgent citywide appeal to help pay off more than $20,000 in debt to keep its doors open.

The food bank serves more than 3,800 families in the priority neighbourhood of Flemingdon Park and provides food to residents of nearby Thorncliffe Park.

Previously, the Red Cross ran the food bank for 25 years but after it left in 2002 a coalition of six multi-faith and charitable organizations took over.

Since at least March 2011, the coalition has been unable to pay the full rental amount and back rent has been accumulating.

In the past three years, inflation has caused the rent to increase from $22,600 a year to about $31,200. The food bank also pays administrative costs for supplies, delivery of supplies and pest control.  

Now it faces the prospect of closing down if it can’t pay off the debt. The board has paid $6,000 off the initial $30,000 owing and is negotiating to lower it further.

The chair of the food bank’s board of directors, Abdul Hai Patel, said if it were not for their compassionate landlord, the food bank would already have closed.

“The landlord has been patient, we would have been out a long time ago if it were not for him,” Patel said. “The landlord should be commended.”

But the landlord’s patience is growing thin and he is asking the food bank to pay off the debt as soon as possible.

The executive director of the Flemingdon Park Anglican Ministry (one of the food bank’s partners), Helena Houldcroft, said the community’s need is strong.

“In 2010 we had about 1,500 families. Last year at this time, we had about 2,400 families registered,” she said. “This year we have over 3,800.”

She estimates that there are about 1,000 children in the families.  

“That’s the statistic we should really be alarmed about,” she said.

Houldcroft pointed out that many of the families who use the food bank are refugees who do not qualify for the child tax benefit.

“It’s just a reality that this is a community where new immigrants and refugees come to,” she said. “People make judgments about people on assistance, but when you’re trying to feed a family, sometimes it’s just not enough.”

But she also said the food bank primarily serves as a steppingstone for families looking for work.

“One thing I’ve always noticed about this food bank is (families) are usually only on the food bank for two to three years and then they’re off because they’ve found a way,” she said. “It’s not like they’re staying on forever.”

The ministry is working on establishing partnerships to make the food bank more sustainable for the future, which might include moving from its current site.

Until then, Islamic Relief Canada is offering to match donations dollar-to-dollar to help the food bank meet its goal.

The organization’s fund development director, Zaid Al-Rawni said while they traditionally focus on international aid, they felt they needed to get involved closer to home in this instance.

“Yes, $30,000 is a huge amount, but it isn’t insurmountable,” Al-Rawni said. “There’s no reason for the food bank to close after 30 years just because of $30,000.”

What you can do to help

For those looking to help the Flemingdon Community Food Bank to clear their back rent, you can donate to the Ansaar Foundation (CRA registration #848018891-RR0001) and indicate “Flemingdon Community Food Bank” on the cheque’s memo field.

Cheques can also be mailed directly to:
Flemingdon Community Food Bank
10 Gateway Boulevard – lower level
Toronto, Ontario, M3C 3A1

You can also donate online at:
[url=http://www.flemingdonfoodbank.com/donate]www.flemingdonfoodbank.com/donate.[/url]

Islamic Relief Canada is also offering to match all donations dollar-for-dollar to help the food bank meet its goal. For more information, visit [url=https://www.islamicreliefcanada.org.]https://www.islamicreliefcanada.org.[/url]

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