Basement space cheaper than plaza location but less visible
By Kris Scheuer
(Written Oct. 23 for Town Crier.)
After being kicked out of the Flemingdon Plaza, the Flemingdon Food Bank is getting back on its feet in a new home.
As a result of revitalization at the plaza, the food bank moved to the basement of the Flemingdon Health Centre at 10 Gateway Blvd.
“They terminated our lease,” said Helena-Rose Houldcroft, interim director of the food bank. “They were moving everyone out.
“We got notice at the end of March, and had April and May to get out.”There isn’t a lot of commercial space for rent, she said, adding the health centre was available and nearby.
Every month, the food bank services about 2,000 adults and children, mostly new immigrants or refugees who live in Flemingdon or Thorncliffe. They come once a month to access about three days worth of food.
Though Houldcroft’s happy the food bank found another home, the location is not ideal.
Because it’s a basement space, it’s not as visible as the previous storefront at the plaza, she said.
However, they save a lot on rent. The plaza was charging $60,000 plus about $40,000 for utilities annually. Renting the health centre space is about $21,600 yearly, utilities included.
The Red Cross ran the food bank until seven years ago, when the Flemingdon Park Ministry took it over.
That threw a wrench into fundraising efforts.
The ministry is part of the Anglican Diocese of Toronto, which has a multimillion-dollar budget.
“You can’t go after United Way money if you are a large, religious organization, but you can if you are small,” said Houldcroft, who is also director of Flemingdon Park Ministry.
To solve that problem, the food bank is looking to incorporate as with its own board, it should be easier to access grants.
The food bank is important to the diverse community beyond just distributing basic food. Its pantry creates two kinds of food boxes: one meets Halal standards and includes legumes, snacks, powdered milk and sometimes meat; the other hamper includes pasta, cereal and canned meat.
Most of the food comes through donations to the Daily Bread Food Bank and Second Harvest.
The food bank has also started serving hot meals two or three days a week.
Food bank users also include Canadian citizens in the city’s Streets to Homes program. Often, their visits to the food bank are weekly.
“A lot of them are recovering alcoholics,” Houldcroft said. “There are a lot of drugs around (the community). Some supplement their incomes by selling drugs.
“A few are scamming the system, but a lot of people are trying to get from under (poverty and addiction).”