01 August 2018 Posted By : Moses Monterroza

Toronto's first kosher food bank on the brink of closing down

Toronto's first ever kosher food bank could close down unless it receives more financial help from the community.

Carl Zeliger, chair of the Pride of Israel Synagogue, which runs the kosher food bank, says he estimates they have six months until they'll be forced to close.

"Families depend on this food bank," he said. "Our need is increasing in terms of people who need assistance."

Zeliger says the food bank, located at 59 Lissom Cres. near Bathurst Street south of Steeles Avenue West, feeds 150 families each week. A significant portion of the people who use it are elderly Russian immigrants.

He says it costs $800 a week to run the food bank.

"In the grand scheme of things it's really not a lot," said Zeliger.

Food bank losing donations fast 

The food bank had originally relied on two main benefactors: the Salvation Army and one large donation by a man who asked to keep his identity private.

Marks says there are also fewer Canadian factories providing Kosher food. 

"With so many Canadian factories closing up and moving to the States, the donations really dropped," he said.

Moreover, the food bank also stopped receiving donations from a company called Chai Kosher Poultry, whose owner recently retired. He says the slaughterhouse was sold to a company that didn't provide kosher meat.

"Where we were getting weekly donations of chicken products—that just ceased altogether."

Many people depend on the food bank

According to Statistics Canada, more than 24,000 Jews across the GTA live below the low income cut off line, which includes people with incomes below $20,386.

This includes 5,000 seniors and 3,500 children under 15.

"There's a segment of the population who'd be denied this avenue," said Zeliger. "The other food banks would not necessarily sort out food and ensure that the food is kosher."

Zeliger says he's written over 30 letters to synagogues and institutions in the city. He says they've got some donations coming in but he wants a solid plan.

"We need a plan where we can receive these funds on an ongoing basis."

Alan Marks, co-founder of the food bank, says two decades ago the Salvation Army received a large donation from a Jewish man, which was used help kosher food banks across Toronto.

Jeffrey Robertson, the area director of public relations and development for the Salvation Army, says they're still using the money that was donated. 

However, Robertson says the issue is that his organization receives limited donations of Kosher food. 

"It's not as much as we have in the past," he said in an email to CBC Toronto. "Due to the high increase in Middle Eastern refugees the demand for meats without pork has dramatically increased."

"There are simply more requests for this type of food."

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