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Festival aims to shed light on connection between literacy and food security

unnamedToronto-based Culchahworks Arts Collective is launching a combined food drive and book giveaway to show the often overlooked correlation between literacy and food security. The Can. You. Read. Festival will take place on Aug. 14 at Harbourfront Centre‚ and is seeking donations of non-perishable proteins for the Canadian Red Cross Mobile Food Bank. In exchange‚ attendees can access a selection of free books curated in collaboration with the International Festival of Authors and the Ontario Library Association.

Organizer Andrew Craig says that many are unaware not only of how illiteracy and poverty are deeply interconnected‚ but also that food banks tend to run dry in the summer.

“The reality is that during Thanksgiving and around the holiday season, people are feeling generous and take the time to make donations. But in the summertime when it’s sunny, no one is thinking about the poor. Even when there are donations, they tend to be heavy on carbohydrates and lack a specific balance of proteins‚” says Craig, who hopes the festival will become an annual event. “This was a complete revelation to me and I began thinking about it more. I wondered if we could do some form of targeted event to address this.”

Originally focused on the food security aspect alone‚ Craig re-jigged the concept of his event when he discovered that a major sponsor‚ TD Bank‚ puts a lot of philanthropic focus on literacy. This prompted him to research and learn more about the link between the two issues.

“There’s nobody that’s hungry that’s going to pick up a book. … There is a very specific and a very well-documented link between poverty, a subset of which is food and security, and literacy. But it’s a connection that never gets made‚” Craig says. “What we’re trying to do is expand the definition of literacy to include these issues. You can’t be involved in the fight against illiteracy and not be involved in the fight against poverty. Anywhere there’s a food bank in a library, there’s a reason to do this.”