'Club Sandwich' takes bite out of hunger during trying times in Toronto

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TORONTO -- A Toronto-area organization is offering a classic lunch to those who need a little extra support during the pandemic.

Volunteers with “Club Sandwich” make and receive up to 2,200 sandwiches a week and delivers them to seven missions around Toronto as a way of giving the vulnerable population a boost between hot meal programs in the city.

Darryl Nielsen started Club Sandwich after his travel business fell victim to the pandemic. Wanting to be fulfilled during a trying time, Nielsen starting making sandwiches on his own and donating them.

“I wanted to come out of this -- at the end of the pandemic -- not just saying what I did during the pandemic, but who I helped,” he told CTV News.

Once neighbours caught wind of Nielsen’s project, they began donating their own sandwiches, which he collected in coolers on his front porch.

Soon, they were gifted a kitchen space in the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto to further expand the program.

The volunteers make sandwiches and accept donations every Wednesday. Volunteers then sort through the sandwiches and deliver them to the mission on Thursdays.

“You're part of something,” said Jo-Anne Wilson, a volunteer at the community kitchen.

What started as just a single sandwich has since grown to a team of 400 volunteers that has distributed 55,000 sandwiches since it began 47 weeks ago.

“The graciousness of the community, they keep donating and donating,” Neilsen said. “It makes me stronger and keeps me going and allows me to reflect on my own life and the lives of others.”

Of the thousands of sandwiches Club Sandwich has donated so far, Neilsen said about a third of them are peanut butter and jelly, another third are ham and cheese and the rest are a mixture.

To help pay for the ingredients, Nielsen created “Food for the Record,” where people who make a donation receive a vinyl record in return.

“It's a new groove to how awesome records are in the first place for many of us in our lives, and it adds that extra element of sharing,” said Anne Dumais, who regularly donates to Club Sandwich.