While many things about 2022 and the Omicron variant remain uncertain, we’ve learned a lot in previous waves and lockdowns about how to respond to hunger during a COVID-19 crisis. This time, there’s no excuse not to be prepared.
Read on to learn:
- How did Mazon help in the first wave of the pandemic?
- How has Mazon helped in the 2 years since?
- What have we learned in these 2 years about how to support hungry people through this pandemic?
- How can you help?
You can also learn about how COVID-19 affected hungry people and the food programs they rely on by clicking here instead.
HOW DID MAZON HELP IN THE FIRST WAVE OF 2020?
As a national organization with deep grassroots, MAZON had a birds-eye view of the local effects of this global pandemic. While many larger charities were tangled in bureaucratic tape, MAZON moved quickly and nimbly to provide emergency funding, and responded dynamically to the diverse needs of many of our partners as they arose.
During the first 100 days following the announcement of lockdowns, MAZON distributed over $200,000 in emergency funding to 79 organizations in 40 cities and towns across Canada. Learn more in our 2020 Annual Report!
“I want to thank you all for the very quick response when Covid-19 hit. At just the right time[…] you contacted us and offered extra support. You have no idea how important that was, or how thankful we were at that time. It was so amazing and heart-warming to know your organization cared enough to check on us and to make sure you could help in any way... Thank you for that. You really do make a difference!” - Gert Reyner (Executive Director, Leduc & District Food Bank)
HOW HAS MAZON HELPED IN THE TWO YEARS SINCE THE PANDEMIC BEGAN?
Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve provided over $1.4 MILLION in emergency food aid through food hamper programs, hot take-out dinners, frozen meal deliveries, and emergency grocery gift card programs. That's more than 600,000 meals -- as much as the previous 4 years combined.
We provide infrastructure to make long-term change. Over $168,000 of those grants provided capacity-building infrastructure meant to create long-term change, which will rescue, grow or harvest over 1.2 million lbs of fresh food over the next 5 years – and beyond. This includes soil, shovels and seeds at community gardens, providing safe places for people to build community outdoors as they learn to grow their own food or volunteer to grow food for others, and equipment like fridges, freezers, and vehicles that help organizations redirect mass quantities of edible food away from landfills to people in need.
We’ve reduced barriers to apply for funding. We’ve simplified our application significantly, so we can get all the information we need to make informed, careful granting decisions from an online form that takes most of our partners less than an hour. In addition, we have launched a multi-year no-application stream for our “Three-Year Champions”: trusted partners who we’ve supported successfully for many years. We hope to expand this stream in the future to many more grantees as we as we work towards trust-based philanthropy.
We’ve brought over 80 new partners into our network, bringing Jewish chesed to more communities than ever before - prioritizing rural, remote, reserve and Northern communities where hunger hits hardest. Our work now impacts 200 programs a year in over 80 towns and cities across Canada. Read stories about Mazon’s partners across Canada here: Quebec, Ontario, the Maritimes, the Praries, British Colombia, and the northern Territories.
We launched a pilot Advocacy Grant, giving activists and advocates the support to make long-term structural change that will tackle hunger at the root. Through the pandemic, we supported the Coalition for Healthy School Food’s research on how school food programs adapted during school closures and restrictions, and the effects on the families that rely on these meals, so they can take these reports to the federal government to prove the importance of a national school food program.
We’ve mobilized mass Jewish support for the issue of hunger through innovative campaigns, bringing in 1000+ new donors and re-activating 1100+ lapsed donors to our work feeding the hungry. Much of our expansion has come through word of mouth – donors telling their friends and loved ones about Mazon’s work and what it means to them.
This grant came at a time where we were unsure about our future. It allowed us to have the time to not only continue the program as normal, but to also garner more funding to continue past this point. - Yasmine Steitieh (Co-Founder, Georgina Pop-Up Breakfast Club)
WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED ABOUT HOW TO HELP HUNGRY PEOPLE DURING COVID-19?
When the government does release funding, it goes to large national food organizations chosen to distribute it - and small organizations are neglected, or receive funding only after months of red tape, applications, and obstacles. This is true despite the fact that small, grassroots organizations were often the ones with the strongest relationships to their communities, and were therefore the most capable of pivoting fast! MAZON prioritizes small, underserved partners over large ones in general, and especially during COVID-19.
Hunger was an invisible crisis in Canada long before the pandemic. While previous research had identified 4 million food-insecure Canadians, a bombshell report from Second Harvest, Canada’s largest food rescue organization, found that those studies seriously underestimated the scale of our national hunger crisis: In fact, 6.7 million Canadians received almost $33 billion in food in 2020 through a network of 61,000 food programs. That’s four food programs for every grocery store in Canada... A number shocking to many Canadians who see our nation as a wealthy and equitable one.
School food matters: Just 3% of these 61,000 food aid programs were food banks or hamper programs; many, many more were school food programs. Canada remains the only G8 country without a national school food program, which is why we came 37th out of 41 wealthy countries in a recent UNICEF ranking of childhood food security. This makes Mazon’s support of the Coalition for Healthy School Food, our first advocacy partner, so critical – and especially their Mazon-funded research into how school food programs adapted during the pandemic, and the effects on the families that rely on these meals.
New research is moving the food aid sector toward fast, efficient and impactful ways of feeding communities. Contrary to popular belief, low-income people are not likely to make unhealthy choices when given free choice with gift cards. A recent study from our longtime partner I Can For Kids shows that grocery gift cards improve nutrition in the diets of families that use them even more than food hampers – making them a fast, effective, no-contact method to get help to people in a crisis.
Postal delays happen despite the best efforts of our dedicated and overburdened postage workers – so when we need to move funds nationally, even to remote regions of Canada, mailing cheques isn’t a reasonable option. No child should go to bed hungry when money to feed them was available simply because foundations, philanthropists and funders refuse to change their policies to move money quicker - and technology to move money online or directly bank-to-bank is critical to make sure donations can be spent on food ASAP.
Two years into this crisis, we can now recognize leading indicators like school closures, and know which partners across the country have reliable records of adapting services to stay open no matter how bad things get. We have the relationships, information and methods to get your gifts where they’re needed most – and fast. But all this knowledge means nothing unless we have the resources to act:
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
If the coming winter presents a worst-case scenario, you can make sure Mazon can get food to those who need it with no delays by supporting our Emergency Omicron Campaign.
100% of every dollar donated to this Emergency Omicron Campaign will support the urgent needs of front-line food programs in the next 90 days with 0% overhead.