When Seema David immigrated to Canada in 2007, starting a community initiative was the furthest thing from her mind. Her focus, much like many new immigrants, was on creating a life for her family and managing her new home. But on her daily commutes into the city of Toronto, she couldnâ€™t help but notice the number of food-insecure and homeless individuals on the city streets. At the same time, she met other new immigrants in Scarborough who were struggling to feed their families. She knew she had to make a difference to help her community, and so, 5n2 was born.
â€œThere is this story in the book of Mathew in the Bible,â€ Seema says, â€œCrowds follow Jesus to the countryside to listen to Him discourse. At the end of the day, they are tired and hungry, and thereâ€™s nowhere to get food from. One little boy has 5 pieces of bread and 2 pieces of fish, which he brings to Jesus. He prays over this food, and the disciples then serve it out to the men, women, and children, and gather the leftovers in 5 baskets. When I was looking for a name for the kitchen, it was as if God was telling me to put in whatever little I had to offer and He would multiply it.â€
And over the years, Seema has seen the kitchen expand to serve multiple locations, even opening the Free Food Pantry in 2020, where clients can access food supplies on an appointment and referral basis. But the path to creating a community initiative like 5n2 was not an easy one.
With a dream in her heart, Seema spoke with her church leadership about opening up a soup kitchen, but was stalled for about six months.
â€œI was naive and thought, well, I just want to prepare pots of soup and serve it out, not comprehending all that it would take to serve food to the public.â€
It wasnâ€™t until Seema met Ravi Kumar at a hospitality event at George Brown College, where she worked, that 5n2 was able to come to life.
Kumar was interested in her vision and offered the public health approved kitchen at the East Scarborough Storefront, where he worked. At the same time, a local food bank run at St. Stephenâ€™s Presbyterian Church partnered with 5n2 to receive soups and meals. The Global Kingdom Ministries Church agreed to the use of their kitchen, and Seema was able to get the kitchen approved by Toronto Public Health, kicking off a fruitful partnership. It was like all the pieces of the puzzle were falling into place.
Three days a week, Seema and her team began serving soup to 30 senior citizens at the Global Kingdom Ministries Church kitchen, 40 children at the Storefront, and 30 clients at the St. Stephenâ€™s Presbyterian Church Food Bank.
In early 2019, 5n2 moved into its own space, continuing to expand its operations in order to keep up with the growing issues surrounding food insecurity.
Now, 5n2 serves over 3,500 meals each week at 11 different locations across Toronto and supplies much-needed grocery hampers to the cityâ€™s more isolated residents.
Alongside the kitchen, 5n2 runs additional programs, such as the 5n2 Food Pantry, Meals4U, and the 5n2 Community Garden.
The 5n2 pantry provides free food supplies to community members who are in need of additional support. The supplies from the pantry include a variety of non-perishable and perishable items, so recipients are able to prepare meals at home. The 5n2 Gardens facilitates interactive workshops, where community members can learn about environmental food systems, including how to grow, maintain, and harvest crops.
The goal of both the 5n2 Pantry and Garden is to reduce the stigma surrounding food insecurity and food banks and provide an additional food resource in a community where so many families are food-insecure.
Seemaâ€™s story proves that it doesnâ€™t matter where you start from or what you start with; as long as you have a dream and you are willing to share it with others, you have the power to make a difference.
Whether itâ€™s having conversations about hunger and the need for food support in Toronto and its surrounding communities, writing to local lawmakers and corporations to strengthen their support programs, pledging donations, or even donating your time, every action has the power to inspire positive change.
â€œI have come to believe Canadians have a big heart, are generous and willing to help others, even at a cost. I mean, can you imagine, weâ€™ve been serving over 2000 meals/week for seven years, no funding support and working with no staff, only volunteers?â€
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, 5n2 has remained open to meet the increasing needs for fresh meals and food support to the more vulnerable and isolated in our communities. Their current challenge is finding a new location to house their expanded operations.