Connecting to Community Through Meals

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 10:02 a.m. June 11, 2020

Toronto Police and its community partners collaborated to distribute nearly 400 boxes of prepared meals to people with low incomes and seniors in 51 and 53 Divisions.

A group of people and police at tables full of food
Police, community members as well as Mobile Crisis Intervention Team nurses pitched in to package and deliver food to those who need it most

Chief Mark Saunders and Supt. Peter Moreira joined officers from the two Divisions and volunteers to package the food for delivery.

A total of 300 meals were delivered to residents in Regent Park and 100 to Toronto Community Housing residents and seniors in 53 Division.

“We know that there is a great need in our Division,” said Moreira, who is the 51 Division Unit Commander. “We have incredible partners that donated the food and asked where the greatest need was. It is through partnerships like these that we have a profound impact on the community.”

A group of police officers packaging food in takeout containers
Chief Mark Saunders jumped in the effort to reach out to community members during a time of social isolation

Neighbourhood Officers in the Division identified families in need of the meals in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Community Officers, including Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams, helped package and deliver meals acknowledging the impact of social isolation during the pandemic on mental health.

“Part of this is also to break the social distancing that we have been having,” added Moreira. “Of course, we have to respect those boundaries, but people have been alone for a great deal of time and hopefully this gesture will bring a smile on their faces. It also helps us reconnect with some of the people we haven’t seen in a while.”

Community resident Margaret Kelly and her grandson Ricai joined Const. Isabelle Cotton to coordinate the event.

“We are part of the community and are always looking for ways to give back,” Kelly said. “With so many low-income families affected by COVID, we thought this would be a good time to step up and help do something to lift people’s spirits.”

About a month ago, the Kelly donated meals to first responders in Etobicoke.

“So many people are going through a rough time right now, so I enlisted the help of two other people in coming up with money to buy the meals that are being delivered today,” she added.

A man and woman stand together
Ricai and Margaret Kelly donated food and their time to help officers reach out to the community

Ricai Kelly, who is autistic, became a big fan of Toronto Police four years ago when Cotton invited him to design and paint a puzzle piece that was part of the Service’s Carnival float.

His grandmother initially visited the police station where Cotton was working after she saw a puzzle piece outside of the building. The puzzle piece is a symbol of the brain development disorder.

Prior to meeting Cotton, Ricai Kelly was fearful of police.

“I am a big fan of the police now and I will do anything to assist them,” he said. “I am so happy to be with my grandmother at a police facility overseeing the packing of meals that are going to people in need.”

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