The pandemic has changed everyone’s life. Though each of our circumstances may be different, this experience has given our communities the opportunity to recognize the struggles that over four million Canadians were already facing before the pandemic started in March: food insecurity.
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, one in eight Canadians were experiencing a form of food insecurity. They did not have access to healthy food on a regular basis—which could mean eating ramen every night or missing meals in order to pay rent or buy medications. Whether one’s food insecurity level is mild or severe it can lead to nutritional deficits, long-term health problems, and missing out on education.
Since the pandemic, one in seven Canadians are now food insecure. We have all had to make sacrifices to keep each other safe during this difficult period, but no one should have to sacrifice feeding themselves or their kids. Millions of people have had to make these choices for much longer than the past nine months.
Food security is an issue that cannot be ignored. Everyone has a responsibility to make sure no one is left without nourishment, as the Torah explicitly tells us: “And when you reap the harvest of your land. . . you shall leave [the corners of your field] for the poor and the stranger” (Leviticus 23:22). And in Deuteronomy 15:7-10 we are commanded, “You shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him, and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be.”
There are many organizations on the front-lines actively feeding the hungry and advocating for food justice. I work at MAZON Canada, a Jewish charity that supports incredible front-line food programs all over the country—from British Columbia to Nunavut to Newfoundland—-with grants and advocacy. MAZON supports food projects that feed anyone in need, regardless of their religion, gender, race or ethnicity. But due to the pandemic, many projects had to adjust to the new reality by pausing their operations, cutting back on volunteers, or completely changing their model of food distribution.
In March, we realized the severity of what was to come and opened up emergency funding to support these projects through this difficult transition. Over $210,000 was distributed to 79 organizations in 40 towns and cities across Canada, serving over 100,000 meals in the first months of the pandemic. And these grants are just the beginning. By the end of the year, we’re expecting to provide over $600,000 in support to these projects across the country.
We at MAZON are so grateful to the Canadian Jewish community who have responded with great empathy and generosity during a pandemic that has changed all our lives. A tagline we often use is “When Canadians go hungry, the Jewish community cares”—and this year, we’ve proven that true.
To learn more about how we fight hunger on behalf of the Jewish community through advocacy, education and resources for front-line organizations, visit www.mazoncanada.ca
Header image design by Orly Zebak.