Sign Of Things To Come
In late December, one Toronto paper reported that 99 restaurants and bars in the city have closed since the start of the pandemic. Around the same time, a popular Toronto blog suggested that number could be as high as 140. More recently, the Financial Post announced that 10 percent of Canada’s restaurants have shuttered permanently with another 18 percent suggesting they too might close as early as mid-February “if current conditions continue."
The industry forecast is based on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that includes restaurants tracking the total number of customers and the number of takeaway meals served, instead of the more common ‘table turnover rate’, a figure not available due to COVID-19 restrictions.
For most Toronto facilities, the number of meals served is down substantially although the chefs in one kitchen have seen numbers grow to record levels in 2020 with the trend continuing in 2021. But that isn’t a positive sign of things to come. Quite the opposite.
By the end of December, 81,000+ meals were prepared and distributed at Haven Toronto in 2020 compared to 49,000+. Breakfast service was up 145 percent year-over-year. Breakfasts and lunches combined are up 92 percent at the drop-in centre for elder men impacted by poverty and homelessness. Haven Toronto’s kitchen is open for breakfast and lunch every day all year, including all major holidays.
In addition to a spike in clients and meals served, Haven Toronto has seen food costs surge by 442 percent due to unbudgeted expenses related to COVID-19 including the purchase of disposable containers and utensils and perishable food.
In the past, much of the food prepared at the drop-in centre was from food recovery programs. However, fewer restaurants means less food recovered. Once able to rely on food donations, Haven Toronto is now more dependent on donors to help meet the growing need to purchase meats, vegetables and dairy that make up well-balanced meals.
There are 10 thousand people who are homeless on any given night in Toronto. Of those sleeping rough, meaning sleeping on city streets, in parks and under overpasses, 85 percent are men and many are clients of Haven Toronto. The drop-in centre supports thousands of elder men who – in their 50s, 60s, 70s and even 80s – are homeless or precariously housed. One hundred percent of clients are food insecure and have missed a meal or gone a day or days without eating due to a lack of money. The drop-in centre is their source of hot, healthy meals.
Haven Toronto makes it easy for a caring community to contribute. It’s online store at www.shophaventoronto.ca accepts donations of meals for $1, meals for a week, and more. Late last year, Haven Toronto also introduced ‘Healthy Meals’ Care Kits supported by a monthly donation that means year-long help for elder homeless men.