Forging partnerships for food bank

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 3:25 p.m. November 14, 2013

While driving through the Rexdale Community during the summer, Const. Bill Vollmar of the 23 Division Community Response Unit, saw a group of seniors unloading food products from a truck in front of the Jamestown/Thistletown Food Bank.

Three men, one in police uniform, load boxes into a shopping cart
Const. Bill Vollmar and other volunteers fill a grocery cart with donated food

“To be honest, I didn’t even know there was a food bank there,” said Vollmar, who served as a police mentor in Afghanistan and is a member of the Toronto Police Military Veterans Association.

He and his partner assisted the elderly group and later learned that deliveries were made twice a week.

“I started coming weekly to help with the unloading and I quickly realized that the quantity and quality of some of the food products was unsatisfactory,” added Vollmar.

He and his new partner, Const. Jag Dhillon, approached Asian Food Centre and Sunny Food Mart – two grocery stores in the community -- with a request for assistance.

“At the time, they were not part of any local food donation programs and were eager to get involved in one,” he said.

Vollmar also enlisted the help of 23 Division Faith Group who offered volunteers and reached out to the local Seventh-day Adventist Church who willingly agreed to assist with the unloading.

“This is a godsend,” said food bank coordinator Eda Black.

“We serve over 300 families a month with food products we received from North York Harvest and Second Harvest,” said Black, who lived across the street from the food bank for 18 years before moving into a senior’s residence.

“With Sunny’s and Asian Food Store aboard, we will now be able to serve more people. The need here is great and hopefully we will not have to turn anyone away.”


A large group of people poses near a delivery truck
Police officers and other volunteers come together to help the food bank

The food bank distributes to families once a month.

“In some instances, we get requests from families for more food,” she said.

“Now, we might be able to accommodate a family with packages twice a month.”

Etobicoke North councillor Vincent Crisanti has promised to put forward a motion in city council for parking restrictions to be lifted that will allow the delivery trucks to park in front of the food bank.

“This is an amazing food bank and it offers so much to this community,” he said.

Rev. Al Bowen of Abundant Life Assembly said the partnerships that have developed in the last few months to enhance the work of the food bank are testimony that community policing works.

“These officers have a heart for this community,” he said.

“This is something we have not seen since the early 1990s, when you had officers that the community got to know. That helps to bring down the wall of silence. Nothing brings down that wall like community policing. What you have to pick up through intel, you can get through live voices when someone trusts you.”

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