No. 1: Because our home chefs are feeding the hungry
The People’s Pantry started small and grew fast. Now, nearly 600 volunteers devote their culinary skills, bikes, cars and time to help out
The People’s Pantry started small—72 characters small. West-end 20-something Ellie Ade-Kur was so worried about food insecurity that she posted the following on Facebook: “Is anyone in the community in need of a free meal, cooked and delivered?” Requests started coming in, then pouring in. Ade-Kur and her partner Yann Gracia prepped meals in their Christie Pits apartment and dropped them off to grateful friends and neighbours. Soon, other millennials followed their lead and offered free meals within their communities.
In April, as lockdown persisted, Ade-Kur, Gracia and five others turned their informal project into an official organization. The People’s Pantry is a collection of independent home kitchens with a common cause: feeding the hungry, free of charge. Today, nearly 500 volunteers devote their culinary skills, bikes, cars and time to help out. Those Good Samaritans donate meals and groceries, and they can choose to be reimbursed for the cost of their produce purchases.
Volunteers communicate through Slack and email, while recipients submit requests detailing any dietary restrictions or allergies, or reach out with concerns through a dedicated text line. Beyond those dietary restrictions, volunteers are free to cook any dish they like. Meals across the culinary spectrum are cooked every week, from vegan Caribbean to halal Middle Eastern. In stark contrast to the canned goods and frozen meals that are typically donated to food banks, People’s Pantry meals are made with passion and pride and receive almost universally positive feedback. To date, volunteers have delivered 12,548 meals to 3,295 recipients, as well as 1,530 grocery bundles to feed another 5,562 Torontonians.
Similar groups have cropped up in the city during this pandemic, such as Uplift Kitchen, which serves Black communities, while non-profits including the pay-what-you-can Mom’s Kitchen have been in place for years.