TOP IMAGE © Courtesy of Bernard Betel Centre
Based in north Toronto, the Bernard Betel Centre is a vibrant, non-profit community centre with offerings for older adults. We provide educational and recreational programs, fitness, health promotion, clinics, volunteer opportunities, special events, cultural celebrations, and community support services, including Kosher Meals on Wheels, friendly visiting, at-home respite, crisis intervention and service navigation.
We have been providing essential community programs and services for seniors for 57 years. Many of the seniors the organization serves are isolated, vulnerable, and live in poverty with limited access to family and community supports.
Despite the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and closing the Centre to the public, the Bernard Betel Centre focused on our critical and essential Meals on Wheels program, cooking, packing, and delivering close to 159,000 meals this year. We moved our multilingual, accessible programs online and offered programming through telephone conferencing. In April 2022, the Centre slowly re-opened and started to provide limited in-person programming alongside our online programs. We continue to support the most vulnerable, low-income, and isolated seniors by providing community support services and safe on-site chiropody services.
Pre-pandemic, the Bernard Betel Centre delivered kosher meals daily to 160-200 fee-paying seniors, along with 20 free meals. During the pandemic, that number ballooned to providing 620 vulnerable Holocaust survivors and seniors living in poverty free meals three times a week, with 450 food-insecure seniors sitting anxiously on our waitlist. Food vulnerability amongst seniors and Holocaust survivors in north Toronto and southwest York Region is not new. However, the pandemic exacerbated this existing issue.
Due to mobility issues and cognitive decline, some cannot cook or even shop for themselves. Many lack the financial resources and family and governmental support to fill their pantries and fridges. They must make gut-wrenching decisions between paying rent and buying food. They rely solely on the Bernard Betel Centre’s volunteer-driven kosher Meals on Wheels program for not only food but for social interaction, “I’m living in a tiny apartment, with no one to talk to. You are the first person I’ve spoken to in weeks,” one 90-year-old client told us.
In addition to the 620 vulnerable seniors currently receiving the Bernard Betel Centre’s free, kosher meals, we screened 1,300 homebound seniors living in poverty in March 2022 alone. Over 700 of them do not receive any agency or community support, and 450 of them need ongoing food assistance to survive. The issue is critical.
- One hundred per cent of our clients are food insecure, most of whom are marginalized seniors, and 20 per cent are Holocaust survivors.
- Poverty and food insecurity affect our clients significantly, with over 80 per cent living off less than $20,000 per year.
- In the past year, 106 volunteers generously donated over 7,400 hours to prep, pack and deliver meals to seniors in our community.
- Our incredible team of staff and volunteers cook, pack, label and deliver between 2,000 – 3,000 meals each week.
- Our Meals on Wheels program provides free nutritious kosher meals three times a week to over 600 seniors living in poverty in Toronto and York Region.
- In the past year, the Bernard Betel Centre’s Kosher Meals on Wheels program provided close to 159,000 meals to the community.
Like many non-profits, our funding is flat-lined, but the need for support for seniors in our community continues to increase, with the pandemic putting an even greater demand for our services. The very dedicated Bernard Betel Centre staff have been writing grants, proposals, and running fundraisers throughout the pandemic to raise funds and advocating to various government bodies for specific funding to continue feeding these seniors. Despite this incredible effort, our money and grants, particularly for our Meals on Wheels program, are running out.
To donate to the Bernard Betel Centre and allow us to continue to provide the critical services we do, visit betelcentre.org/donate-now
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The Bernard Betel Centre is a vibrant, non-profit community centre located in North Toronto with offerings for older adults (55+). We provide a variety of programs and services including fitness, recreation, trips and travel, special events, community support services, health and wellness, volunteer opportunities, and many more.