We’ll see you in there.
Connect to customize your food & drink discovery.
Tough times have been brought on this year by COVID-19 and made even tougher for those already in need pre-pandemic. Food security is a growing concern as many have lost all or part of their income, while the lack of shelter use by those living on the streets has spiked due to fear of increased virus spread. Jalil Bokhari, a Torontonian who recently made an impact by sharing a list of the city's Black-owned businesses on his Instagram, noticed a rise in homelessness in his Dundas West neighbourhood and was determined to help.
Bokhair teamed up with Julian Bentivegna, head chef of Ten Restaurant. They set out to install a community fridge behind Ten (near College and Dufferin) that aims to feed those in need within the local community. The idea was sparked and inspired by Bokhair's friend Zenat Begum, who successfully created a network of seven fridges in Brooklyn, N.Y. to provide free food in various neighbourhoods. Bentivegna had wanted to launch a similar initiative when Bokhair approached him, and their first up and running fridge became a reality as of last week.
The fridge is stocked, organized, and cleaned daily by volunteers and its sign reads, "take what you need, leave what you don't." While the restaurant has contributed to a large chunk of the donations so far, other city folks eager to help have reached out via the dedicated Instagram page, @cf___to, to provide food. Additionally, two of the city's non-profit organizations, The Bowery Project and the Toronto Workers' Relief Fund, have stepped up to donate items. The initial fridge at Ten is stocked with produce, an especially important, healthy option for many who may not have easy access to it, plus bread, milk and other provisions.
In terms of expanding the program, there has been significant interest from individuals and businesses across the city to host community fridges. Fridges are being donated for use and they already have several other locations confirmed across the city, likely popping up shortly in Parkdale and Regent Park. For restaurants, this initiative is a wonderful opportunity to help out the community and put extra food to good use that would generally be tossed. Restaurants that volunteer to host can step outside and place their excess food items in a fridge. Bokhari's goal for these community fridges is to "tackle food disparity and redistribute wealth and privilege" in Toronto, and that is what's happening as the movement gains momentum. Spread the word, donate if you can and stay updated by following their Instagram page!