About one in five Toronto households experience food insecurity.

Food banks have received more than one million visits in 2019—4% more than last year.

Among local food bank users, 32% are children.

These disturbing statistics reveal an epidemic of hunger in Toronto. While access to food is a basic human right, many citizens—particularly low-income families and those who are racialized, Indigenous and/or living with a disability—often go hungry.

Gurbeen Bhasin knows it doesn’t have to be this way. Her non-profit social enterprise, Aangen, is focused on healing hunger in Toronto. She and her team run multiple local programs to help socioeconomically disadvantaged community members access nutritious meals.

This year, to boost its efforts to address hunger, Aangen has joined the Giving Tuesday movement. The organization is on track to serve its 500,000 meal, and is inviting the public to support its #HalfAMillionMeals campaign to generate $10,000 by Giving Tuesday on Dec. 3.

“This campaign is so important because it’s essentially a matter of life and death. Food is so basic and fundamental to health and well-being,” says Bhasin, executive director of Aangen. “People cannot be independent, functioning members of society if they can’t afford to eat.”

Since 2014, Aangen has been providing meals to those who are underprivileged. It started a meal program with Parkdale Community Food Bank, where clients would be fed a healthy meal and have leftovers to take home. In 2016, Aangen expanded its services to shelters. In 2018, it was asked to support meal preparation, delivery and service to emergency respite centres opened by City of Toronto shelters.

Today, Aangen serves about 500 meals a day—breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks—to shelters and hostels run by Fred Victor, a prominent social service charity for homeless and low-income people living in Toronto. It also makes sure that its own staff and volunteers receive meals to ensure their food security.

Food insecurity is an issue that deeply affects quality of life. As the Daily Bread Food Bank reports in its Who’s Hungry Report 2019, 44% of adults and 25% of children who used local food banks went hungry at least once a month. Just over half had missed a meal to pay for a bill.

Poverty is the root cause of food insecurity: most food bank users simply don’t have enough money to afford paying for housing, medical needs, transportation and food. Over the longer term, inadequate access to food is associated with greater risk of chronic diseases, depression, anxiety and mortality.

Food is a human right enshrined by the United Nations, and Canada has a legal obligation to protect and fulfil this right. In addition to its programs to heal hunger, Aangen is also lobbying the municipal and provincial governments to meet this essential need of its citizens.

“The fact that there is so much need in the community is tragic to me,” Bhasin says. “We’re doing everything we can to serve the community in the best way we know how.”

Every dollar raised for Aangen’s #HalfAMillionMeals campaign for Giving Tuesday will go directly towards feeding the hungry. To join our social justice movement to end hunger in Toronto, make a donation.

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