Thanksgiving celebrations may be limited this year, but the Daily Bread Food Bank is still hoping to stock the tables of some of Toronto's more vulnerable families.
"At no time has the need for food banks been more pressing and we are struggling to keep up with that demand," CEO Neil Hetherington told CBC Toronto Saturday.
In total since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Daily Bread Food Bank's number of new clientele has increased by more than 200 per cent.
The organization is currently feeding 25,000 people per week across Toronto — an increase of 10,000 from this time last year.
In response to that excessive demand, the food bank held a drive-thru food drive on Saturday for the first time in the organization's history.
People lined up in rows of cars packed with food, hoping to make a dent in that growing need.
"We're seeing a lot of new faces," Hetherington said. "Women and men that you would just be colleagues with, on the bus with, that are having to make that decision of putting their family first and coming to a food bank."
He hopes Saturday's event will not only provide families in need with food for Thanksgiving, but a sense of hope and dignity.
'I wanted other people to be able to have a meal'
Luna Gatkowski-Vio had those people in mind leading up to her 12th birthday.
Instead of asking for toys or technology, she wanted donations.
"Since my birthday is near Thanksgiving I wanted other people to be able to have a meal, plus I really like helping people," she said.
In total she raised more than $300 from family and friends and also dropped off bags of food on Saturday.
Food bank hopes it will one day not need to exist
It is with the help of people like Luna that Hetherington said he hopes the food bank will no longer exist in the future.
"People have rallied together, they have said, 'Ultimately, we want to make sure that no one goes without food,'" he said.
By advocating for enhanced income support and affordable housing, he hopes to create a "radical new look" at how the city deals with social policies.
"Together, we are going to advocate for systemic change so that nobody needs the food bank," Hetherington said.
Toronto Mayor John Tory agreed, saying the city is working on doing just that.
"Coming out of the pandemic, we have work to do on jobs, because if people have a good job they're going to be able to provide better for their own families," he said.
Not only that, but Tory said people are spending too much of their income on housing, which is creating food security issues.
"It's something that we are turning our attention to already, even with the pandemic still on," he said.
For those who are using a food bank for the first time, Tory said he wants them to have a hope for a brighter future — one without COVID-19.
"I hope that people will have a sense of hope," he said.
"When the pandemic is over, I hope that there are going to be many people who can get back to work."
As part of its Thanksgiving campaign, the food bank has set a goal to raise more than $1.9 million and collect more than 270,000 pounds of non-perishable goods.
The campaign runs until Oct 31.