Passover food drive returns minus chickens

Volunteers pack their cars with Passover food boxes on their way to be delivered last year.

The National Council of Jewish Women of Canada, Toronto section, is gearing up to pack and deliver more than 2,500 Passover food boxes to needy Jews across the GTA.

Jews living under the poverty line, recent immigrants in need and people with disabilities have benefited from the organization’s Passover Food Drive for the past 31 years.

“It’s a tradition that allows people the dignity and the choice to celebrate,” said Glenda Cooper, Passover Food Drive chair.

“Costs are so prohibitive, especially on Passover… so this just allows them the choice. Part of the Passover Food Drive is just to recognize people for who they are and that we see them as people, and just because they can’t afford something, doesn’t mean to say that they shouldn’t be able to celebrate. That’s really what we’re trying to get across.”

This year, Cooper and her committee of eight women have had to adjust to some changes. For one, the boxes – which contain items such as matzah, cereal, grape juice, canned fruit, Haggadahs and candles – won’t include chicken.

“We used to get chickens from Chai Poultry, but Chai is no longer [in business],” Cooper explained. “[The owner] used to donate them to us for free for many years. It really was an added gift. This year, we don’t have Chai and we couldn’t afford to buy chicken… so BurnBrae Farms, the egg company, donated coupons for free eggs, so they’re still getting a protein.”

Cooper said the committee is also trying a new approach when it comes to advertising. For the past 30 years, they had inserted brown paper grocery bags into Metroland newspapers and The CJN.

“This year, we said there are no more bags. A lot of people weren’t using them. It was a fortune of money just to go to the garbage, so I turned the advertising around a little bit. Until now, we didn’t really advertise on TV or do much electronically,” Cooper said, adding that the committee chose instead to run more ads in The CJN and on, and they’ve even advertised on CP24.

“We’re trying to reach a far broader spectrum,” she said, adding that they also have a social media presence on Facebook and Twitter.

As for a fundraising strategy, Cooper said the committee partnered with Jewish day schools to run an art competition. Students designed Passover greeting cards, and five winners were chosen. The cards were printed and are selling in packs of five for $25.

What hasn’t changed is that food bins are available at grocery stores such as Sobeys, No Frills and Longos, where people can donate non-perishable kosher-for-Passover food items.

“We’re doing our food drives from March 23 to April 2… People can drop off food in the boxes [at participating grocery stores], but at some stores, they can also purchase pre-packs, so they don’t even have to think about what to buy. They just pick up a bag and pop it into the food box,” Cooper said.

Delivery day is April 6, and Cooper said the committee will need a lot of volunteer drivers to distribute the boxes.

“People from all over the city volunteer. We get kids from the Jewish day schools. They come in groups. Families come in,” she said.

In addition to volunteers, Cooper said the committee also needs cash donations.

“With the money that we raise, we’re able to purchase exactly what we need… We have lost some grants across the board, like many others have, and so we are really reliant on the community and businesses. Our sponsorships came in, which was great, and now it’s up to the rest of the community to help us bring this forward, because it really serves a need in this community.”

Volunteers can show up on delivery day at 4700 Bathurst St. between 8:30 a.m. and 12:00 p.m.

For information on donating or volunteering, visit or, or call 416-633-5100.