Breakfast program feeds over 150 Riverside residents in need

Every Friday volunteers with the Rivertowne Breakfast Program gather to prepare food for area residents with food insecurity. The Green Line's Anita Li has more.

By Anita Li, The Green Line

Amid rising food prices and inflation rates, one group of women is working to make sure Riverside residents are don’t go about their day hungry.

Every Friday, Joan King along with volunteers, who regularly include Miriam Tahalil, Ashley Shreves, Rebecca Hodge and Sadie Rogers gather in King’s kitchen.

They, along with anyone else who wants to volunteer, feed over 150 people every week as a part of the Rivertowne Breakfast Program, delivering free, warm breakfasts across the neighbourhood.

It was founded by King in 2009 and nourishment they provide goes well beyond what they put on one’s plate.

Up until the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the program was run out of a common room of the Toronto Community Housing building at Munro and Matilda Streets.

“Before the community room closed, it was a place where the kids would come and gather. It was a place where seniors would come and talk, a place that parents would come and interact,” explained Tahalil.

It was also a way for new residents in the neighbourhood to come and integrate, like Hodge, who lives in a condo building around the corner from King’s home.

She found out about the program through the Riverside Business Improvement Area (BIA).

“When we first moved in, we met a few people, but it wasn’t until when I came here and I met Joan, Miriam and Ashley and we did the Christmas and I met all the neighbours, everybody came and pitched in, and I’ve met so many more people … It feels like so much more of a community,” said Hodge.

Toronto Community Housing has yet to reopen the common room, so King decided to keep running the program out of her home, rather than have to shut it down.

“Before it started, I’m sure there were a lot of hungry kids going to school and Joan’s heart is as big as this community, literally, and she wanted to feed them,” said Shreves. “Feeding people is Joan’s joy. She feels like she wins the lottery every time.”

Driven by gentrification, food insecurity is a growing problem in Riverside. The City of Toronto said over a quarter of families — 26 per cent — in South Riverdale fall into the bottom fifth income bracket in Toronto.

As housing prices and mean incomes rise here, people with lower incomes are forced to pay higher rents which leaves little money left over for food.

“$8,000 used to be enough for the year … now [we need] $12,000, $13,000,” said King.

That’s why she is looking forward to the 11th Annual Riverside Antler Breakfast in December. Hosted by the Riverside BIA and founded by the late local Chef Scott Savoie, the event has raised money for King’s breakfast program since 2011.

You can find more information on the breakfast program and the Riverside Antle Breakfast here.

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