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  • Writer's pictureDave Shellnutt

The Power of Community

Early in August 2023, we got an unexpected email from our Bike Brigade partner, the incredible Foodshare. They indicated that the free foodbox program that had run weekly since the early days of the pandemic had finally run out of funding. They had fought to save the program successfully many times, with thousands of people benefiting directly from their work.

We hope Foodshare can find funding and revitalize the program, we of course offer our support. But, for now, we want to acknowledge the supreme honour it was to ride in support of their fight against food security.

Since the first summer of the pandemic, in 2020, people on bikes, volunteers of the Toronto Bike Brigade would meet outside of the Biking Lawyer LLP office on College Street. Every week. Rain, sleet, or shine.

Together, we plotted safe routes across town, through construction, unplowed bike lanes, and even anti-vax/white supremacist shutdowns of our most direct routes. We shared treats, caught up with old friends, welcomed dozens of new Brigade riders, and explained to shocked passersby what this mass of cyclists were doing for their community.

Since June 2020, 524 volunteer cyclists delivered 10,963 boxes of stunning produce over 45,600 kms to our neighbours in need.***

***These stats represent only the Foodshare campaign, the dozen other campaigns we ride produce overall incredibly huge stats.

For 3 years, people on bikes consistently showed up. In the early days, well before vaccines, cyclists arrived with trepidation but determined. For many of us, it was a rare privilege to have even brief human contact and see community at work during a very dark hour. Later, as the pandemic in some way waned, it became clear that access to food and the high cost of living (which certainly existed before) had become exacerbated. Cyclists continued to show up ever week to deliver food boxes by bike for Foodshare, (and our many other partners’) fight against food insecurity.

This dedication continues. Without a doubt, the Foodshare deliveries were pivotal in the expansion of the Bike Brigade and our understanding of food insecurity. It was an important campaign, one of many.

To this day, cyclists led by a marvelous volunteer logistics committee deliver food and essentials to people in need ever single day of the week, sometimes with multiple daily campaigns. The work goes on.

We’re entering our third winter of delivering food by bike for our partners, and we gleefully prepare for it. We so encourage you to join us (if winter isn’t your thing, understandable, join us in the Spring, we’ll be out there riding then too):

While we continue to ride, we wanted to take a moment to look back with appreciation for so many. Thanks to Paul Taylor for his leadership, thanks to Foodshare, thanks to Brenton and Shewan dropping off loads of boxes, thanks to the Emmett Ray for the cider, thanks to those that donated masks and sanitizer.

Special thanks to Max, Jenna, Serena, James, Rachel, Melissa, Dar, Lars, Jack, and so many more of the team for demonstrating what can be done through keen organization, brilliant tech solutions, and inspired determination to help as many people as possible.

Thanks of course to our riders. Seeing you ride up to our office every week over these past three years has and will continue to motivate me. I’m humbled to have ridden with you all.

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