The Stop Community Food Centre knows how to have a good time. Last Wednesday’s Night Market fundraiser featured food from the city’s trendiest restaurants and food vendors, upcycled architectural booth installations and a mean brass cover of Michael Jackson. It was a hipster’s wet dream. Throngs of beautiful people in denim cutoffs happily stuffed their faces with meticulously curated small plates and washed it down with local beer and wine.
Personally, I was delighted to see there were so many vegan and gluten-free options, most notably Ursa’s organic tofu canapés, tempeh sloppy joes from The Beet Organic Restaurant and mini blueberry kissed donuts compliments of Tori’s Bake Shop. This, my opinion, is the best way to spend an evening (though swapping the beer for refreshing coconut water also provided. Double score!) That was probably why The Stop sold out within two hours of tickets going on sale. This was such a hit ticket that there were even rumblings online of people crashing it and trying to sneak in, which makes me wanna gag on my chili dusted jicama (from Torito). How can anyone justify stealing from charity?
This wonderfully organized event raised an impressive $115,000, said to be enough to pay for a 3-day supply of healthy food for over 9000 hungry Torontonians; also the equivalent of 115,000 free drop-in meals or 521 tonnes (1.15 million lbs!) of organic tomatoes grown in their greenhouse! It’s downright heart warming. And upon learning about The Stop’s programming you realize that their attention to detail doesn’t stop at great party planning. Their mandate of providing food for the hungry while upholding recipients’ dignity gets me a little choked up.
They strive to take any semblance of inequality out of their processes. First, no one is allowed to stand in a line for food…ever. This food bank operates on a number system so everyone can sit down and relax while waiting for their hampers, and their drop-in meal program has volunteers serving community members their lunch where they’re seated (restaurant styles). This means cutlery, napkins, cups, pepper etc is brought to them as requested, helping participants feel that they can accept community support without jeopardizing self-image or dignity. While I find stigmas based on socio-economic status are depressing, it is important that we as a community acknowledge them and be sensitive to this. Furthermore, we must realize that dignity is instrumental in allowing members to be productive contributors within it.
Pride is a funny thing. Too much or to little can be detrimental to our emotional wellness. I personally saw the results of what happened to a person’s well being after my father suffered a huge blow after losing his business. This was something he never got over and carries a special kind of weight in ones heart when you part of the Asian community. While he was deemed to have died of stomach cancer, I think he actually died of shame. Accepting charity takes huge courage and I personally feel so blessed that I was never personally been tested.
These were my thoughts as I stood in the Honest Ed’s parking lot that had been converted into The Night Market space. Holding my garam masala donut, I felt so far removed from the concept of hunger and I probably wasn’t alone. While there were line ups for food and drinks, there was no shortage of supply itself. It was a beautiful evening supporting a fantastic cause but I felt a pang of fear that this fantastic organization was not enjoying the same attention and support sans hipster event. Does charity need to be on-trend in the modern age? I resolved to donate throughout the year.
Even with these less than festive thoughts, I had a blast. Lots of laughs and soaking in the pulsating energy of the crowd. It was impossible not to. They were playing a polka version of Beat It and I’ve got a soft spot for tuba.
To donate: www.thestop.org