In anticipation of the GTHL’s second season of the Food Goals program, we sat down with Neil Hetherington, CEO of Daily Bread Food Bank, to discuss food insecurity in our communities and how GTHL teams can give back this holiday season.
GTHL: What is the GTHL Food Goals program?
HETHERINGTON: The GTHL has teamed up with Daily Bread Food Bank and food banks across the GTA to encourage families, alumni, and hockey fans to help fight hunger during the holiday season.
GTHL: How long has this program been going on?
HETHERINGTON: The campaign launched in fall 2020 with a small handful of clubs participating. Led by North Toronto and Humber Valley, the inaugural campaign raised more than $25,000. As we head into year two we’re looking forward to working with the GTHL and with food banks across the GTA to grow the program and encourage even more teams and players to participate.
GTHL: What is the purpose of the campaign?
HETHERINGTON: This campaign is about people coming together to ensure that individuals experiencing hunger can access the food they need. Although a sense of normalcy is slowly returning to our communities, for the tens of thousands of our neighbours living in poverty, the reality is very different.
In 2019, Daily Bread member food banks saw an average of 68,000 visits per month. Since January of this year, that number has climbed to more than 110,000 visits per month, hitting an unfortunate milestone in June with a record- breaking 124,000 visits.
If these rates continue, it’s projected that Toronto food banks will see 1.4 million visits in 2021, the highest number ever recorded in the city’s history.
The GTHL Food Goals program is a way for teams, players, and their families to come together this holiday season to help ensure that our neighbours across the GTA can continue to access fresh, nutritious food.
GTHL: How can a GTHL team and/ or player get involved?
HETHERINGTON: This is a flexible campaign that offers teams and players the opportunity to raise funds, collect food donations, or both. We’ve partnered with several other food banks across the GTA, which means teams can support their local food bank and their local community as part of the campaign. To learn more and get started, head over to dailybread. ca/GTHLFoodGoals.
GTHL: What are the benefits of getting involved with GTHL Food Goals?
HETHERINGTON: You know, on the ice, each player experiences teamwork and sees the strengths of their teammates. This is an opportunity for players to see their teammates’ strengths off the ice. Strengths like community mobilization and the ability to make those around them better. It’s an opportunity for players to demonstrate their leadership skills, to rally their teammates, and to help ensure everyone’s right to food is realized.
GTHL: What do you hope people get out of participating in the GTHL Food Goals program?
HETHERINGTON: When I think about this campaign, I think about guys like my nephew Riley (Riley Hetherington, North Toronto). Riley has not personally experienced food insecurity, yet this is an opportunity for him, and for thousands of players, coaches, and their families to have conversations about food insecurity and about poverty – in our communities.
Yes, it’s about raising food. And yes, it’s about raising funds. But more importantly, it’s about raising the next generation of leaders who are going to work to end hunger.
“North Toronto was very proud to participate in the Daily Bread Food Bank challenge. We were able to raise a lot of money and have a fun competition, at the same time.”
RICH BREWDA, PRESIDENT OF THE NORTH TORONTO HOCKEY ASSOCIATION