Toni's Kitchen Executive Director Anne Mernin recently wrote the following letter to the community:
Phew! We are (finally) breathing a bit freer. The pandemic has eased, the air has warmed and we can delight in gathering together. Many, many thanks to all who have shared time and treasure during these difficult last two years. You kept our community strong!
Times of crisis lend themselves to moments of revelation and learning. At Toni’s, we have taken in many lessons from the last two years. While we have long known that food insecurity in the suburbs tends to be hidden, the pandemic certainly lifted the veil. The fact that 2 out of every 5 families asking for help were asking for the first time revealed a surprising number of residents just one or two paychecks away from instability. Unexpected events can disrupt a fragile stability and once a family slips it is hard to rebuild.
I walked out of my office one morning and saw a dear friend with two kids in college selecting groceries for her family. She burst into tears when she saw me. What words do we choose in those moments? We walk through our wide streets with beautiful homes and kids on bikes and can’t imagine stories such as hers or how common they can be. Inflation, the churn in the local housing market and global instability promise to keep pressure on families. This tells us that our solutions to food insecurity need to be built for the long term, with elasticity to flex as conditions change over time.
Food insecurity impacts tremendously diverse populations. A single solution will not serve all. An older adult living on a fixed income has needs that differ from those of a teen aging out of foster care or a resident without housing. A family facing a health crisis has challenges unlike those of a parent fleeing domestic violence.
At Toni’s, we have built programs that recognize the diverse needs of food insecure populations and are designed to connect with residents in ways that are integrated into their daily lives. Our neighborhood pop-ups, hot meal truck, home deliveries and partnerships with local groups ensure healthy food is readily available. This approach has built-in flexibility so we can expand and contract as local needs change over time. They are also designed to connect early so residents have a better chance of quickly stabilizing and moving on.
As we listen to our community and absorb the lessons of the pandemic, we set our sights on truly ending food insecurity. Toni’s Kitchen cannot fix the structural issues that give rise to food insecurity but we can, with your help, ensure that every family, every older adult and certainly every child goes to bed at night knowing that access to healthy food is not a worry.