BMO Field now being used to prepare food for frontline workers

May 6 2020, 10:56 am

As MLSE continues to work out of Scotiabank Arena with a team of partners to feed frontline workers, BMO Field has joined the massive production.

The operation is a joint effort between Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd. (MLSE), Scotiabank, Tangerine Bank, Bell Canada, Rogers Communications, and BMO as a lead partner as well.

The large-scale meal program aims to support and thank Toronto’s frontline health workers, their families, and to protect the city’s most vulnerable.

Already, the program is exceeding its early goals, with 100,000 meals produced this week. Now, the use of both arena and stadium facilities will allow for even further expansion of meal production.

With the additional resource of the BMO Field and the support of BMO, the “Bringing Toronto Back To Its Feet” program will be able to expand beyond their original production goal of 10,000 meals per day to now produce up to 13,000 meals per day, in an effort to thank those working on the frontlines across the city.

“MLSE and our teams are always proud to represent Toronto, inspire our citizens, and serve our community, but that is especially true in challenging times,” said Larry Tanenbaum, chairman of MLSE, in a release.

“We are extremely proud of our organization and our employees who had a hand in bringing this program to life and grateful to the many partners who were so quick to lend their support. We all look forward to the day when we can return to hosting and entertaining our fans, but until then, we are focused on doing everything we can to help our community recover from this difficult period.”

BMO Field’s numerous food preparation facilities will now be used by MLSE to prepare and assemble these additional meal packages.

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

Meal preparation at BMO Club (MLSE)

“There has been an outpouring of support in response to this initiative and it has further demonstrated the united and generous spirit of Toronto,” said Michael Friisdahl, President and CEO of MLSE.

“The addition of the facilities at BMO Field, and the support of BMO as a partner, will help us grow this program beyond what we had first envisioned and provide even more support to the community where and when it is needed most.”

He added, “this is an example of Toronto at its best.”

Mayor John Tory also expressed gratitude to BMO for joining the massive project.

“Businesses in Toronto have stepped up throughout this crisis to help the community – it’s the Toronto way,” the mayor said.

Since the announcement of the program, MLSE has also received more donations than anticipated from the community to support with logistics, including delivery, food or financial donations, and assistance from volunteers.

Support has come from Mackie Movers, Pinnacle Caterers, Nestlé Canada, McCormick Canada, Smucker’s, Pizza Pizza and Diageo Canada, as well as many others inquiring about how they can help.

Meal preparation at BMO Club (MLSE)

Over the course of the first two weeks of operation, the MLSE culinary team’s meal production included almost 25,000 pounds of chicken, 15,000 pounds of potatoes, 10,000 pounds of mixed vegetables, and 8,000 pounds of pasta.

Second Harvest — the largest food rescue organization in Canada — along with a network of local suppliers and sponsors, are providing fresh ingredients daily to the MLSE team. Those supplies, along with food purchased or donated to the program, are then transformed into fresh, nutritious, ready-to-heat, single-serving meals that are suitable for a variety of dietary needs, and will be ready for delivery five days a week.

“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 organizations Second Harvest supports do not have the kitchens or money necessary to do that– and that gap puts thousands of vulnerable people at risk,” said Lori Nikkel, CEO of Second Harvest.

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

Second Harvest CEO Lori Nikkel (on truck), Michael Friisdahl, MLSE CEO (far left), MLSE Culinary Director Chris Zielinski (on truck), Darryl White, BMO CEO and Mayor John Tory. (MLSE)

“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,” said Nikkel.

“We are determined that no one be left behind.”