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Spotlight On: Second Harvest

Second Harvest is a Toronto based not-for-profit dedicated to "helping feed hungry people by picking up and preparing excess fresh food and delivering it daily to social service agencies." Built upon respect and service to the community, Second Harvest has rescued and delivered more than 80 million pounds of food and prevented over 40 million pounds of greenhouse gas equivalents from entering the atmosphere since its founding in 1985. I recently interviewed Executive Director Jo-Anne Sobie about the organization and her views on mindful living.

What is your definition of living mindfully? Living mindfully for me is all about being aware of the world around you and seeking to understand your place in it.  It's being willing to do something that will leave the world a little better off.  So often we walk past a homeless person sleeping on the sidewalk and don’t even give a thought as to who they are or how they ended up this way. Take a moment to visualize his or her life and some of the challenges they may have faced. Then think about what you can do to help.
Of what achievements are you most proud that Second Harvest has been able to accomplish? 
Second Harvest not only provides healthy, nutritious meals to the most vulnerable in our city, but through our support of over 215 community support agencies, we are helping to nourish and enrich the lives of thousands of people - children, women escaping violence, isolated seniors, youth at risk, Toronto's homeless populations, and so many more.  Thanks to the dedication of our staff and volunteers, we are now providing over 19,000 meals every day.  That makes me proud!
What do you see as the future of Second Harvest? 
I wish I could say that we won’t need a Second Harvest in the years to come.  I’d love for us to no longer have a need to feed the hungry.  Sadly, there will always be hungry people in the communities in which we live. The good news is, with half of the food we produce in our country going to waste, there is so much more that we can do together to rescue and redistribute this food.  That’s what Second Harvest is an expert at, and we envision feeding many more people in many more communities by partnering with others to make a difference.
How do you hope to make a difference in this life? 
I have spent most of my career focused on charitable works.  It seemed natural for me to do this, and I have never regretted my decision to work in this most meaningful way.  I know that my efforts have helped hundreds, and possibly thousands of people to live healthier and more fulfilling lives.  That has fulfilled me.  What I love about Second Harvest is that we make a difference in someone’s life every day.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to make a mark, but doesn't know how? 
Spend some time thinking about what matters to you most.  Would you like to raise funds for health research, or work in the kitchen of a shelter, or coach a sporting league? Then do your research. Whether you are considering doing volunteer work or making a career in the charitable sector, learn what you are passionate about, and pursue opportunities from there.
For more information about Second Harvest visit To donate funds, time or food visit


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