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More than 20 families a day are getting their food and supplies delivered by the city’s cyclists
The Toronto Bike Brigade has made over 500 meal food deliveries to isolated families during the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than 530 people have joined the new initiative since it was started in March by David Shellnutt, a Toronto lawyer who represents victims of violence, cycling accidents and those with disabilities. He calls himself Toronto’s Biking Lawyer.
“If there’s a crisis, then I ought to be looking for ways to contribute,” says Shellnutt. “I’m really tapped into the Toronto cycling community. There’s not another group who intimately cares more for the city, even when things are good.”
He was overwhelmed by the response from healthy, able-bodied people who were looking to help out but, until the Bike Brigade, had nowhere to start.
The Bike Brigade makes 20 to 50 deliveries a day. Cyclists collect packages from community kitchens or grocery stores and deliver them to the homes of those who are disabled, low-income or immunocompromised. Shellnutt organizes the deliveries and ensures that everyone involved follows safety protocols.
With Toronto’s grocery delivery services are fully booked weeks in advance, the Brigade is invaluable to people stuck at home.
“I asked myself, ‘How do we not make the situation worse with our good intentions?’” Shellnutt says. He signed up for the University Health Network’s volunteer training session to get informed about ways to keep members safe.
Annie Bunting, an Associate Professor of Law at York University, is one of the Brigade members. She has made four deliveries so far. She says the Brigade’s sign-up system has made it easier than ever to help out.
“A Google doc is posted every morning. You sign yourself up, and you receive a text with details about pick-up and drop-off locations and contact information,” says Bunting. “There’s no intermediary necessary.”
While the Bike Brigade continues to grow, logistics will continue to get more complicated. Shellnutt is hoping that larger organizations will reach out to help. “We don’t have the capacity to organize payments yet, and it’s getting more and more hectic for me to handle the delivery schedule myself,” says Shellnutt.
Luckily for the Bike Brigade, new members are joining daily, and they are signing up for deliveries faster than Shellnutt can post them.
“There’s a really strong desire to ride and assist people, and that drive will keep the Bike Brigade going. It’s amazing how powerful community initiative can be.”