On the type of chilly grey Saturday afternoon that might have inspired some of her Grade 6 classmates to start thinking about their Halloween costumes, 11-year-old Sarah Jordan and her 7-year-old sister, Claire, spent much of Oct. 5 in the basement of a Bayview Avenue supermarket, packing turkeys, green beans and cranberries, for loading onto a Daily Bread Food Bank delivery truck.
With help from Daily Bread executive director Gail Nyberg, the sisters arranged more than 30 of their friends and classmates into an assembly line that packed 160 hampers with food that will help make Thanksgiving dinner for needy families.
It was part of a community barbecue organized by owner Rob Tremblett of Tremblett’s Valu-mart at 1500 Bayview Ave. to support Sarah’s Food Drive. Now in its sixth year, the food drive has been running since Sept. 15 and will go until Oct. 13.
Sarah was only 5 when her mother inspired her to organize her first food drive, by telling her some people who lived “five minutes away” didn’t have anything to eat for dinner.
The family was listening to the radio, and within minutes Sarah heard about Daily Bread seeking donations for its Thanksgiving food drive.
“I was so lucky to have a meal and others didn’t, so I decided to do something to help,” she says.
Sarah started soliciting donations from others in her classroom, daycare and on her block to support the food bank’s Thanksgiving campaign.
“We would give out hand-written flyers to peoples’ doors around my street,” Sarah says.
In 2011 her efforts spread through her Northlea Public school. In 2012 she challenged students from two other schools, Rolph Road Elementary and Bessborough Drive Elementary and Middle School, to compete with Northlea in a “North Leaside vs South Leaside” challenge to see which could collect more food.
Together, the schools gathered more than 21,000 pounds of food.
This year six local schools participated in a “Battle of Bayview”. Sarah and Claire visited all six, speaking at assemblies alongside a Daily Bread representative.
While the sisters’ parents joke about their roles being “chauffeuring,” Lynda Debono and Mark Jordan have supported their daughters’ campaigns by helping refine their ideas and by calling schools and businesses.
Debono runs a consulting company with her brothers, while Jordan works for Sick Kids Foundation.
“Mark and I have always tried to volunteer our time with causes,” Debono says. “We are happy to see our kids, and other kids, picking up on that trait.”
Local corporate supporters who have stepped up this year include Neal Brothers and Nutshell Live Life Well Store, which together donated more than 12,000 pounds of food so far, and local real estate agent Patrick Rocca.
Sarah’s Food Drive also received a challenge this year from Kraft Canada: for every $25 Thanksgiving hamper supporters sold at Tremblett’s, up to 100, Kraft would donate $100 to the Daily Bread Food Bank.
On Oct. 5, Kraft donated $10,000 to the food bank.
In a statement, Nyberg praised Sarah and Claire for raising awareness with their classmates and peers about hunger and poverty.
“The biggest lesson we can learn from Sarah is that you’re never too young — or too old — to start making a difference in your neighbourhood,” Nyberg said.
Sarah’s Food Drive was the organization’s fifth top community fundraiser last year.
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