Food for Our Communities, Food for All: The 519 Responds to Food Insecurity During the Pandemic


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© Photo Courtesy of the 519

The 519 is Canada’s most prominent 2SLGBTQ+ community centre and service provider. Serving Two-Spirit, Queer, and Trans communities from its facility in Toronto’s Church and Wellesley neighbourhood for 45 years, The 519 has long recognized the importance of equitable access to food. Every program and group they operate offers a food component, be it meals, snacks, grocery bags, or gift cards, and their programs offer a safe place for everyone.

With programs including the Older 2SLGBTQ+ Seniors’ Drop-in program, Meal Trans, Trans People of Colour Project (TPOC), Among Friends Refugee Support Group, Trans Youth Mentorship Program, and the decades-old Sunday Drop-in program, The 519 breaks down all barriers to access.

2SLGBTQ+ communities, especially racialized communities, are among the most food-insecure, and COVID-19 has only exacerbated the inequities in food access. High rates of poverty, unemployment, and homelessness have all driven the risk of food insecurity.

The 519 has been on the front lines every day during the pandemic. At the peak of the first wave in 2020, The 519 swiftly responded by mobilizing and redeploying staff, offering two free hot takeaway meals per day to folks in need. In January 2021, the program was reimagined to afford even more community members greater access to food. The 519 team now prepares and freezes hundreds of nutritious meals to allow folks to pick up a week’s worth of food in a single trip. Through its partnership with Second Harvest, The 519 has scaled up food production, and its meals are delivered to organizations across the city, from Downtown East to North York and the East End.

As of October 2021, The 519 has distributed 90,836 meals (hot and frozen) to the community on-site and 120,340 meals to other community organizations through their Second Harvest partnership. On top of that, 1,165 unique individuals have accessed the Frozen Meals program.

Food is a universal language, representing a mechanism to bring people together, share pieces of each other, and bring about love and caring. “The frozen meals are more than a transactional experience,” says Carl Kannegiesser, Manager of Community Engaged Food Programs at The 519. “Through our meal service, we have gotten to know and connect with folks and support them with referrals and essential supplies. It is food that has brought us together in order to make those connections.”

Many people accessing The 519’s meals service programs have acknowledged that while the food has been a critical tool for getting through these difficult times, the kindness and hospitality from staff and volunteers have been life-saving. A participant accessing the meals service program shared, “My government assistance does not give me enough money for groceries to last a month. I’m grateful and very thankful for your help during these challenging times.”

The 519’s experience with COVID-19 and the dire need within their communities around food access has changed how they think about their food security initiatives. None of this work would be possible without community help and support. You can also support The 519’s food security initiatives today so that there is food for 2SLGBTQ+ communities, food for all.

The 519 is a registered charity. Donate today at

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The 519 is committed to the health, happiness and full participation of the LGBTQ2S communities. A City of Toronto agency with an innovative model of Service, Space and Leadership, we strive to make a real difference in people’s lives, while working to promote inclusion, understanding and respect.


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