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MLSE helping bring Toronto back to its feet

Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment has teamed up with a group of dedicated partners to create a large-scale meal programme to support health workers in Toronto, Canada, during the coronavirus crisis.

The group is looking to thank Toronto’s front-line health workers and their families, and to protect the city’s most vulnerable.

The goal of the community meal program, operating out of Scotiabank Arena, is to prepare and deliver as many as 10,000 meals a day to local hospital front-line workers and community agencies.

Joining MLSE as founding partners in the community outreach effort are Scotiabank, Tangerine Bank, Bell Canada, and Rogers Communications.

Scotiabank Arena has been transformed into Toronto’s largest kitchen, with its numerous food preparation facilities and the arena floor being used to prepare and assemble the meal packages.

MLSE’s chefs and food and beverage staff, along with employees from different departments within the company, are working together on this programme as the company’s sports and entertainment operations are halted due to the pandemic.

In addition, Scotiabank will be opening its kitchen facilities at Scotia Plaza in Toronto to further support this initiative.

MLSE is the parent company of the National Hockey League’s Toronto Maple Leafs, the National Basketball Association’s Toronto Raptors, Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC and the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts among others.

Michael Friisdahl, President & CEO of MLSE, said:

Scotiabank Arena normally serves as a gathering place for fans to be entertained and cheer on their teams, but today, as the world deals with the overwhelming impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, our arena will serve as a place for people to come together and support our community when it is most in need.

In a time of crisis like we are experiencing, many different needs emerge, and we saw this as a chance to use our facilities and engage our people to serve our community. We are grateful to MLSE’s employees, our teams through the Team Toronto Fund and the Maple Leafs Alumni for their donations and our generous partners for helping answer the call and providing the resources needed to fill an important need at this critical time.

Second Harvest, the largest food rescue organisation in Canada, along with a network of local suppliers and sponsors, are supplying fresh ingredients daily to the MLSE team.

The chefs will then turn those food supplies, along with other food purchased or donated to the programme, into fresh, nutritious, ready-to-heat single-serving meals suitable for a variety of dietary needs.

Meals will then be labelled before being readied for delivery five days a week. The program is expected to prepare and deliver hundreds of thousands of meals over the coming weeks for the network of hospitals and community agencies.

Lori Nikkel, CEO of Second Harvest, said:

To limit the spread of COVID-19 while maintaining social distancing, it’s essential that community food programs now provide takeaway meals to an increasing number of people in need. Unfortunately, many of the organisations Second Harvest supports do not have the kitchens or money necessary to do that – and that gap puts thousands of vulnerable people at risk.

We are incredibly grateful to MLSE and its partners for helping us close that gap by mobilizing its world-class venue and chefs, and for the generosity of so many food donors that are enabling us to provide thousands of meals every week. We are determined that no one be left behind.

MLSE worked with food hygiene experts and Toronto Public Health during the development of the program to ensure the safety of the meals and of the people who are working to prepare them.

In addition to the founding partners who initiated the program, a number of other important supporting partners provided financial assistance, services or food donations including Sobeys, Sysco, Maple Lodge Farms, Dairy Farmers of Ontario, Maple Leaf Foods, McCain Foods, Unico/Primo, Mars Wrigley, Coca-Cola, Weston Foods and Pinnacle Caterers.

Old Trafford joins the fight

Meanwhile, the first of an initial 60,000 prepared meals for NHS staff across Manchester, UK, will be dispatched from Old Trafford today (Friday) in a joint-initiative between ManchesterUnited, Manchester United Foundation, Mealforce and the club’s catering supplier, Bidfood.

Over the coming weeks, these meals will be delivered free of charge, across four sites in Manchester, as part of the ongoing effort to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.

NHS staff based at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT) and Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, who would normally have to provide their own meals while on duty, will benefit from the service.

The initiative will involve over 80 permanent and casual club staff, who have volunteered to prepare the food in the kitchens at Old Trafford, in line with UK Government social distancing restrictions.

Staff and facility costs are being covered by United while all other costs will be underwritten by Manchester United Foundation.

From there, the club’s catering supplier, Bidfood, will support the daily operation by facilitating the temperature-controlled deliveries across the city, also free of charge.