Local boy generates over 12,000 lbs of non-perishable food through Food Bank Street Challenge

December 10, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Sam Odrowski

Research shows when people engage in acts of kindness it has a ripple effect and a local 12-year-old boy learned this firsthand through his Food Bank Street Challenge.

Jaylen Padayachee, with the help of his father Koven and his six-year-old sister Isabella, sent out letters to all the houses on his street, notifying them that he’s collecting non-perishable food for the Orangeville Food Bank and he ended up with over 300 lbs.

“Once we found out how much food we collected, we thought if everyone in Orangeville did this, we would be able to get a lot of food for people that are struggling at this time,” said Jaylen.

He started challenging his friends and since that time, the Orangeville Food Bank has passed 7,000 lbs of donations, as a direct result of the Food Bank Street Challenge and an additional 5,000 lbs has been collected in other communities, totalling 12,000 lbs.

“What Jaylen and his family started has just had a huge ripple affect in our community, but not only our community, this went from here and it went to Guelph and from Guelph, it went to the GTA,” said Heather Hayes, Executive Director at the Orangeville Food Bank.

“It has just literally rippled across the Province in support of people’s neighbours, friends and family.”

The challenge has reached as far as Brooklyn, New York and Australia, in addition to Kitchener, Milton, Etobicoke, Mississauga, and Owen Sound.

There’s a Facebook page called, “Food Bank Street Challenge” where individuals can post how many donations they’ve collected, find information on how to participate, and challenge three friends of their friends to keep it going.

Jaylen said his initial goal was raising 10,000 lbs of food donations in total, but since he’s already passed that target, he’s now hoping to raise 25,000 lbs by the end of the year.

Over the weekend he finished collecting donations at his fifth street, as he’s continued to collect non-perishable food along roads that haven’t yet donated through the challenge.

“It really doesn’t take much time, but I think, especially during this time, the feedback from people in the community has been great,” Koven noted.

“When we go to the doors to pick up donations, people are waiting at the windows to say ‘hi’ and ‘thank you’ and give thank you notes. So I think a lot of people want to help during this time, a lot of people want to donate, and they just didn’t know how.”

Koven told the Citizen, it’s important to note that the street challenges are mostly organized and ran by youth. 

“It’s just a great way to teach our young kids, just how important it is to give back and think of others during this time, especially during Christmas… so it’s a good message, at the same time as well,” he explained.

“That’s why a lot of families have jumped on it, saying this has been great for our family, we needed some sort of positivity in our lives.”

Hayes said Jaylen’s challenge couldn’t have come at a better time as the Orangeville Food Bank is taking in less donations, since schools are unable to host food drives this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a way for us to make sure that we’ve got our shelves stocked and people have a way to bring some meaning to the seasons right now. It’s a tough time for everybody, whether you’re having difficulties with food insecurity or whether you are just feeling the strain of COVID fatigue,” she noted.

This year the government has provided some support to food banks but in a typical year, 97 per cent of food and donations to the Orangeville Food Bank come from the public, so they’re critically needed each year, especially during the holiday season.

“All of the food that we’re receiving from this food challenge right now, this will carry us through until April, this is the most critical time of the year for us. If we don’t receive those donations now, we won’t be able to make it through until April,” Hayes warned.

A representative from Food Banks Canada noted that 70 per cent of their donations come during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons.

Hayes said she’s grateful that Jaylen’s challenge has caught people’s attention and gained so much traction locally.

“We love the support. Anybody who’s interested in participating, that would be fantastic. I think people have an idea in their head about who accesses the food bank and it’s not the people who you think it is. It truly is your neighbours, the people who live beside you, down the street, you have no idea what goes on behind closed doors,” she noted.

“It’s your friends, it’s your family, here at the food bank, we can tell you that it’s all walks of life who come.”

There’s likely going to be an increase in the numbers of people accessing the Food Bank heading into next year and many of those accessing it might be doing so for the first time, said Hayes.

“COVID has caused so many people difficulties and because the economy is not as healthy as it use to be, people have lost their jobs and we suspect that we will see more middle class families coming to the food bank, needing to access services,” she explained.

Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, those accessing the Orangeville Food Bank cannot enter the building and have to utilize a drive-thru or walk-up model, which will likely remain in effect for at least six months, according to Hayes.

Jaylen and Koven say they hope to make the Food Bank Street Challenge into an annual event and maybe branch into fundraising for different organizations in need for the future.

The pair are excited to see how many pounds of donations are collected by the end of the year and if they can hit their 25,000 lbs target.

A local family went out to collect food along Glenforest Rd and Forest Park Rd last week, as part of the Food Bank Street Challenge and ended up with 280 pounds of non-perishable food.

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