In 2000, Bob Spencer from the Ontario Food Bank met with Alan Rush, minister at Birchcliff Bluffs United Church, where Bob shared his vision for distributing frozen prepared meals to those in need in the Birch Cliff Community.
At the time, there wasn’t a formal food bank in our neighbourhood. Instead, those who suffered from food insecurity would visit each church in the area asking for food or monetary donations. What happened was only the select few who were early would end up benefiting by getting all the resources from each church.
Founded in Faith
Alan shared the idea of preparing frozen meals for distribution in our community to the pastors from Birchcliff Bluffs and four other local churches:
- Fallingbrook Heights Baptist (Church at the Centre)
- Fallingbrook Presbyterian
- Scarborough Baptist
- St. Nicholas Anglican
Discussion quickly turned from the need for just a meal program to the need of a permanent food bank. Plans immediately began to found a food bank in Birch Cliff.
Birch Cliff resident and lawyer, Beth Moore, volunteered to help setup a non-profit corporation with the board of directors being made up of members from each of the five founding churches.
Churches by the Bluffs Food Bank was formed.
To get us started the Toronto United Church Council (TUCC) donated $2,500 to purchase appliances and followed with another donation of $2,500 which all went towards the purchase of a commercial cooler and freezers.
Toronto Scarborough Presbytery of the United Church of Canada also contributed $2,500 for start-up costs which we used to pay for the $3,000 insurance policy that we required.
It became abundantly clear in the early days of the food bank there was a greater need among our clientele. People come to the food bank for all sorts of reasons: Some are on social assistance. Some have just lost their job. Some are in the middle of a separation and finances have not yet been worked out. Some folks are on disability while other may be refugees or are undergoing chemotherapy and are unable to work. For all, the high cost of housing quickly uses whatever money they have and before the end of the month, many find that they need our support.
Birch cliff Bluffs United Church outreach project, the Clothing Boutique, opened to offer clean, used clothing and small housewares at reasonable prices. Often our clients have only the clothes on their back or have a family with children who are constantly growing out of their clothing. For a few dollars, they are able to leave with a bag full of clothes.
We also learned many of our clients hadn’t filed their taxes – often for several years. We began helping people complete and file their taxes. This resulted in people receiving the child tax benefit and refunds they hadn’t been collecting for months and years.
Looking to the Future
In 2015 we introduced a new logo and communications strategy which included calling ourselves the Bluffs Food Bank. We are still officially the Churches by the Bluffs Food Bank but it made for a mouthful.
We began by feeding just a handful of people in our community and now serve over 3,000 people that call The Bluffs home. Today we serve more than 8,000 meals annually and continue to function with the same purpose as when we were founded: to eliminate hunger in Birch Cliff.