At this point, it is well-documented that the coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately affected Montreal’s poorest and most racially diverse areas. The Montreal-North borough — where the median income is $23,412 and the unemployment rate is typically a couple of percentage points higher than elsewhere on the island — has the steepest number of cumulative cases since the start of the pandemic (3,369). And while the Quebec government stalls on providing record race-based coronavirus data, it is worth noting that half of Montreal-North’s population belongs to a visible minority, and 40 percent are immigrants.
Members of socially and economically marginalized communities tend to hold many frontline jobs that are more likely to expose them to the virus, such as stocking shelves at grocery stores or working as an orderly in the healthcare sector. And, even before COVID-19 hit, nearly 4.5 million Canadians struggled with issues of food insecurity, which, like susceptibility to illnesses, disproportionately affected those in low-income and minority communities.
After the first two months of the pandemic, one in seven people in Canada were food insecure, representing a 39 percent hike from previous levels, according to the nonprofit Community Food Centre Canada (CFCC). In Montreal, a city where upwards of 600,000 were already living in poverty and one-third were experiencing moderate to severe food insecurity, the strain is acutely felt.
Job losses and ongoing confinement measures have led requests for food aid to soar. The October shutdown, which brought restaurants, bars and other businesses to a close, further added to that strain. According to Centraide, a foundation that provides financial assistance to community organizations, half of all calls to 211 (Montreal’s free social services helpline) during the pandemic relate to obtaining food.
Until policies are redesigned to address entrenched inequities, the communities hit hardest will continue to feel the effects in kind. In this guide, Eater Montreal has collected resources for where to give, what to offer, and how to volunteer across the city. Editors have done their best to vet the charities, but it’s important for people to make sure that they support organizations that align with their values and have a transparent, proven track record.
Do you have a food organization or food-related project that you’d like to submit? Email the information to Eater Montreal at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Eater.com for more resources on how to help elsewhere.
Mutual Aid Groups
Mutual aid steps in to fill the gaps where overburdened nonprofits and federal assistance programs cannot. During the pandemic, ad hoc communities emerged from Facebook Groups and Google Docs to meet the pressing needs of isolated seniors, undocumented migrants, and others who may have nowhere else to default. Here are some options for how to help grassroots support systems connecting local volunteers with their neighbours in Montreal.
Bonjour Parc-Ex: This mutual aid group assists Montreal’s Parc-Ex residents in coordinating food delivery for seniors and families who are self-isolating or in financial need.
Solidarity Across Borders: A mutual aid fund that covers the urgent costs of food, medication, and shelter for migrants and refugees.
Rest2Resist: A mutual aid fund for sharing food, providing shelter, and getting masks to queer, trans, Black, Indigenous and POC activists, artists, abuse survivors, and allies. Donations can be sent to email@example.com.
MTL COVID-19 Mutual Aid Mobilisation: The 17,000 members in this Facebook group pool their resources to help each other with social support, fundraising, and food donations and delivery.
Outremont COVID-19 Help Foundation: A collective of local volunteers helping seniors and other vulnerable people with grocery shopping and deliveries throughout the pandemic. Fill out this Google Doc to help them.
While many charitable organizations have suspended programs and hit pause on accepting volunteers to limit the transmission of COVID-19, some have doubled down to meet the surge in demand for emergency food aid. So whether you are willing to grocery shop for an elderly neighbour, package meals in a community kitchen, or use your car to deliver a food basket, there is a way to help.
Montreal Indigenous Community NETWORK: A collective dedicated to Inuit, First Nations, and Métis individuals and families who are currently food insecure. Donate supplies, money, or time to one of its member organizations.
Moisson Montreal: Canada’s largest food bank is responsible for distributing 15 million kilograms of food each year and is looking for volunteers to meet the ongoing surge in demand.
Santropol Roulant: This Plateau neighbourhood organization grows, cooks, and delivers food via its meals on wheels and urban agriculture programs. It is seeking volunteers for both of these initiatives.
MADA: The city’s only kosher food bank and soup kitchen serves three meals a day, seven days a week. Plus, volunteers deliver a Shabbat meal to elderly patrons who request it every week. Help wanted.
Innovation Jeunes: During the pandemic, this youth organization is focusing its efforts on providing food to the most vulnerable in Downtown Montreal and its surrounding areas. Anyone with a car — and a few hours to spare — should get in touch. Donations are also welcome.
Extended Hands: A nonprofit dedicated to low-income households that offers community lunches as well as grocery distribution. It is always seeking volunteers, non-perishable foods, and delivery vehicles.
Welcome Hall Mission: The charity has been adapting its services to support low-income Montreal residents since 1892, and last year launched the Marché Bon Accueil grocery store. It’s still open during the pandemic, but elevated safety protocols are in place. You can help by volunteering or making a donation online.
Hunger Relief: Food Banks, Pantries, Soup Kitchens and Shelters
People in financially precarious positions tend to cut down on groceries first because other expenses, such as housing, utilities, and transportation, are non-negotiable. With many once again out of work, the organizations on this list collectively serve as a bulwark against hunger for thousands across the city. Though soup kitchens and shelters continue to limit hosting patrons on-premise to stem the spread of COVID-19, many have reorganized to produce frozen meals, put together emergency food baskets, and set up delivery networks. Meanwhile, community organizations have temporarily pivoted their missions to prioritize food aid. Some are looking for food donations and volunteers; others could use some extra funds. In some cases, they need all three.
The Depot: Quebec’s first recognized community center has put many of its programs on hold due to COVID-19, and is no longer accepting individual food donations or new volunteers as a safety precaution. It is, however, accepting donations to support its expanded emergency food basket program.
Food Banks of Quebec: This is a network of 18 food banks across the province, which together fulfill an average of 1.8 million requests for food assistance per month. With COVID-19, that number has gone up, and the collective is looking for donations.
Bouffe-Action de Rosemont: A community organization dedicated to fighting food insecurity in the Rosemont neighbourhood. Support by donating your money or time.
Ressource Action Alimentaire: This organization is conducting meals on wheels for the elderly and delivering food baskets to anyone facing financial difficulties due to the pandemic. Find out how to help here.
The Benedict Labré House: The 70-year-old day center prepares nearly 100 food baskets a week — and that’s in addition to the free meals it gives out on the daily. Donations of all forms are welcome.
Multicaf: This Côte-des-Neiges community cafeteria has been preparing meals for nearly 7,000 people per week during the pandemic — seven times its usual amount — and has recently renovated its space to include a food market. Accepting monthly and one-time donations.
Old Brewery Mission: While the shelter has had to shut down its drop-in cafe and suspend other services to limit the chances of transmitting the virus, it continues to offer packed lunches to non-residents. Founded in 1889, it is one of the largest resources dedicated to homeless men and women in the country.
Le Frigo de Élan: Throughout the pandemic, Hochelaga-Maisonneuve community organization Un Élan Pour la Vie was forced to suspend most of its services, except for its food bank, Le Frigo de Élan. Contributions of food, time, and money are all appreciated.
Mile End Community Mission: Established in 1991, this neighbourhood soup kitchen pivoted from warm sit-down meals to takeout and food bags. It relies heavily on public donations to offer this service — and many others.
Chez Doris: A day shelter that provides food, counselling and other services to women coping with homelessness, mental illness, and addiction.
Community Organizations Providing Food Access
Share the Warmth: This community group runs a food bank supporting over 1,000 individuals each month, as well as a kitchen that prepares community lunches on weekdays. Donate one individual food box for $25 or a family food box for $50.
Afrique au Féminin: This nonprofit organization started with the intention of supporting immigrant women of African descent, but its location in the ethnically diverse neighbourhood of Parc-Extension led it to expand those parameters. For the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, its food bank is free and does not require registration. Volunteer opportunities are available.
Sun Youth: The charity was the first to create a food bank in Montreal back in 1981. More than 30,000 people have received food assistance from Sun Youth since the beginning of the crisis. Looking for monetary and food contributions.
Head and Hands: An organization dedicated to the health and well-being of youth aged 12 to 25, through a series of workshops, programs, and services. Its food pantry service provides one week’s worth of food to those who need it.
ASTT(e)Q: A trans health and well-being organization that has been providing relief in the form of food, financial support, harm reduction supplies, and more throughout the pandemic. Support members of this community here.
Patro Le Prevost: This Villeray neighbourhood community centre is offering free frozen meals to families in need, but it’s on the hunt for volunteers to distribute them twice a week.
Mealshare: Every time a customer orders a menu item boasting the Mealshare logo at a participating restaurant, one meal goes to a homeless or at-risk youth, through community partner Dans la rue. Participating restaurants include Candide, Burgundy Lion, and Lloydie’s.
Restaurant and Frontline Worker Relief
In October, restaurant workers have once again found themselves out of work. Many are eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) to help cover living expenses during the coronavirus crisis, but migrants, refugees, and undocumented people — many of whom undergird the hospitality industry — have been left out of federal assistance schemes. This list includes options for helping these people, as well as those working at the frontlines of healthcare right now.
Montreal Restaurant Workers Relief Fund: MRWRF provides emergency economic relief to the city’s hospitality workers — undocumented workers are eligible — in the form of $50, $100 and $150 direct transfers. Funds are raised from supporting businesses and public donations.
Sustain the Line Montreal: A website connecting restaurants able to deliver meals to healthcare workers to the people willing to fund them.
The Hero Project: A community initiative to provide meals and snacks to doctors, nurses and support staff working in the Jewish General Hospital’s emergency room and intensive care unit. For $10, you can buy one frontline staffer a meal; for $1,000, you can feed an entire shift of workers.
Robin des Bois: This 14-year-old volunteer-run restaurant donates all profits to local charities and organizations, such as Sun Youth and Santropol Roulant, which are fighting food insecurity during the pandemic and beyond.
Glad Day Book Store: Canada’s first lesbian and gay bookstore has set up an emergency fund for LGBTQ2S artists, performers, and other tip-based workers who cannot cover the cost of rent, medicine, food, and other necessities.
Migrant Rights Network: This cross-Canada alliance is accepting donations to support the migrants, refugees, and undocumented people who have lost work and wages during the pandemic but have been left out of government emergency relief schemes. Support the cause by making an online donation here.
Eater is tracking the impact of the novel coronavirus on the local food industry. Have a story to share? Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.