A Toronto man agreed to eat the soup to raise money for the food bank, and Instagrammers noticed
The Parkdale Community Food Bank has raised over $35,000 thanks to a Toronto man who volunteered to eat a 14-year-old can of soup. The President’s Choice Chicken with Egg Noodles soup, donated to the food bank, expired in 2006.
“I’m just hungry,” says Oliver O’Brien in an Instagram comment on the food bank’s account.
Luckily for O’Brien, who moved to Parkdale in May, members of the community donated over $4,700 more to the “Save Him” fund than the “Eat Old Soup” fund, and he never did have to eat the soup.
“Everything I do is media-based,” says O’Brien, who markets his band called BODY DBL, and works for a cannabis retailer that both get constant media attention. Still, going viral as “soup guy” made him nervous. “Media attention is scary. It’s hard to control your image.”
Instagram commenters debated over how rotten the soup actually would be, and if he would actually be sick from eating it or not. “Think about how tall you’ve grown in 14 years. Think about how many words you’ve texted,” says O’Brien. “The overall point was that no one should be eating that. In fact, we shouldn’t be donating cans or food to food banks. Money is and will always be the best option.”
In an Instagram post on Nov. 18, the organization announced that it would be accepting donations for one week to determine O’Brien’s (and the soup’s) fate. Originally, O’Brien agreed to eat the soup if $10,000 was raised, but that goal was met three days before the week was up. Companies like Loblaws and Pink Cherry pitched in, each with $5,000 donations.
The 14-year-old soup is just one of several expired food products that the Parkdale Community Food Bank receives through food donations on a daily basis.
“If it’s not good enough for you or your family, it’s not probably good enough for our clients,” the food bank’s manager, Kitty Raman-Costa, says regularly on the Parkdale Community Food Bank Instagram videos.
Food bank use in Toronto is higher than it’s ever been. Monthly food bank visits are up 51 per cent from 2019, according to the Who’s Hungry 2020 report. COVID-19 has led to a spike in food insecurity, and organizations like the Parkdale Community Food Bank have been struggling to keep up with the new demand.
The soup fund is over, but the food bank is always accepting food donations. It is also hosting a toy drive until Dec. 13 and new, unwrapped toys can be donated to the Roncesvalles United Church, and will be given to community members.
As for O’Brien, his work with the Parkdale Community Food Bank will continue. “I work in social media and digital marketing and will be giving Kitty as much help as I can. I also plan to volunteer for regular positions,” he says.
“It’s also such a pure cause. People just … get food. No political or religious agenda, you just get food and a smile.”
In this eighth episode of the fall season of Blue & Gold, we explore two stories outside of those that have dominated the news cycle.First, our video executive producer Deepak Bidwai speaks with author and academic Monia Mazigh, about Islamophobia in France and around the world. Then, host Nojoud Al Mallees chats with Brad Galloway, Coordinator at the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, on the rise in far-right extremism in the United States.Blue and Gold is a weekly podcast from the Ryersonian profiling each week’s top stories; created, hosted and produced by Jasmine Rach, Nojoud Al Mallees, Sidra Jafri and Alex Cyr.
Community Fridges Toronto is looking for a new location to bypass an outdated bylaw
A week ago, food insecure or hungry residents of Parkdale could visit the community fridge outside Black Diamond Vintage at 1614 Queen St. W. and take whatever they need. The fridge, placed there in July, was stocked daily by locals who have groceries or pantry items to spare. It’s part of an initiative started by Community Fridges Toronto, which facilitates the installation, sanitation and upkeep of the three, previously four, fridges around downtown Toronto.
The Parkdale fridge is no longer there after Black Diamond Vintage was visited by bylaw officers on Nov. 17. According to a spokesperson from Coun. Gord Perks’s office, the officers ordered the fridge to be removed, “citing public safety and accessibility concerns, as well as the existing Abandon Appliance bylaw.”
The Abandon Appliance bylaw states that abandoned appliances are dangerous because someone could get trapped inside them. But the community fridge that was at Black Diamond was not abandoned, and rarely empty. People accessed it multiple times a day to take what they need or leave what they don’t. Perks’s spokesperson says that the bylaw officers “verified the appliance had doors on, was filled with food and was plugged in,” but the city continued to cite the bylaw, which was adopted 20 years ago.
Bylaw officers also cited “sanitation issues related to stopping the spread of COVID-19” as a reason for the fridge’s removal, according to Perks’s spokesperson.
“It’s frustrating that the city is changing their story,” says a staff member of Black Diamond Vintage, who did not wish to be named. “They did not talk to us about sanitization at all and did not say it was an issue.”
The fridge was cleaned daily, often several times a day, says the staffer, “There was a strict cleaning schedule.”
Community Fridges Toronto is now looking for a new home for its Parkdale fridge. “As a host you are responsible for power to the fridge, the CFTO community takes care of the rest,” reads a recent Instagram post from the organization. The Abandon Appliance bylaw does not apply to appliances on private property, which includes street patios or parking spots.
Three other community fridges are still running, and it is unclear whether they will be targeted by the city. They are in constant need of support, Community Fridges says, and located at 1132 College St., 555 Dundas St. E. and 782 Adelaide St. W.
The seventh episode of the fall season of Blue & Gold takes a dive into the world of varsity sports here at Ryerson. This fall, both the Ontario University Athletics conference and national sports governing body U SPORTS announced that all athletic events under their umbrella would be suspended until 2021. This week, our host Alex Cyr chats with Ryersonian sports editor Daniel Centeno about the stories he covered despite the cancellation of all varsity sports contests. Then we hear from Kaitlyn Wilson, a fifth year figure skater and OUA All-star who is learning to practice her sport in the absence of facilities. And finally, Ryersonian reporter Coby Zucker tells us about E-sports: the fastest growing – yet most misunderstood – sport offered at Ryerson. Blue and Gold is a weekly podcast from the Ryersonian profiling each week’s top stories; created, hosted and produced by Jasmine Rach, Nojoud Al Mallees, Sidra Jafri and Alex Cyr.
The sixth episode of the fall season of Blue & Gold looks at how dating has changed during the pandemic. This week, our host Sidra Jafri chats with students to learn about how their relationships and searches for love have been upended since March. We also speak with Jen Kirsch, a Ryerson graduate and relationship expert who shares her insights on how to find love and maintain the spark during these unusual times. Blue and Gold is a weekly podcast from the Ryersonian profiling each week’s top stories; created, hosted and produced by Jasmine Rach, Nojoud Al Mallees, Sidra Jafri and Alex Cyr.
Why turning to social media to support a cause you care about could be doing more harm than good
You’ve seen it. Since the infamous black square from last June’s #BlackOutTuesday, Instagram activism is becoming more and more common. Instagram activists focus on a myriad of international issues, from the fetishization of Asian cuisine to the overrepresentation of trans people in prison. Instagram activism can look like informational slides, shots of protests or signs, or even a simple hashtag. At least on my daily feed, it’s changing Instagram and how people use it, and while it might seem effective, it is just like the rest of Instagram: a performance.
In June, it seemed like Instagram activism had hit a new high as several Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests took place in the United States and Canada. My friends and family began using Instagram to share resources and information more than usual. But it wasn’t the first time in 2020 that our Instagram feeds were inundated with posts about one common cause.
Back in January, Instagram was inundated with dying baby koalas and footage of bright orange acres of forests engulfed in smoke. Not only were people posting about the issue, but many new accounts popped up, devoted to fundraising and awareness. Around the world, Instagrammers cried for Australia as its wildfires burned.
When BLM began making headlines only five months later, the world was a very different place. The pandemic has forced us to sideline practices that are normally essential to activism, which aims to bring people together with one common goal. But in-person protesting isn’t exactly easy to do right now. This may be why a black square (or lack thereof) became the symbol of one’s political engagement and wokeness this past June.
By early morning on June 2, almost 30 million black squares had been posted to Instagram in an attempt to show support for the movement, many captioning it with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. Several people pleaded with Instagrammers to stop using the hashtag, as the resources and information that had previously been available through that hashtag was being buried deeper and deeper beneath pages of black squares posted by people unaware of why the black square had even started, or the effect their contribution had.
I never posted the black square. Maybe it was because my Instagram account had never been political before. Maybe it was because I had just started selling homemade cookies, and the absurdity of a politically loaded black square among shots of chocolate chips and fresh cookie dough was not lost on me. I was having daily conversations with friends and family about race, racism and political engagement, and donating a portion of my cookie sales to the LGBTQ Freedom Fund, but I wasn’t posting about it. To Instagram, I hadn’t done enough.
#BlackOutTuesday seemed to create more conflict, causing people to turn on one another either about their “silence” or their use of #BlackLivesMatter. Even I received a message from a follower I’ve never met, asking when I was going to “show my support.” My sister’s cake business lost followers, and rifts were caused between many friends of mine who couldn’t agree on their use of the black square..
It was the first time the world seemed to clue in that certain Instagram activism can cause just as much damage as the good it intends to create. While people thought that their participation would garner the respect of followers and represent their support of the BLM movement, it replaced years of BLM resources on the timeline and, along with them, the intended purpose of the hashtag as a whole. Not to mention, any posts about other deserving causes that day were also buried.
#BlackOutTuesday conveyed the message that the millennial saying seems to be true: if you didn’t post about it on Instagram, it didn’t really happen. Millennials like me are looking for validity and sincerity in a medium rooted in performance, in illusions of perfection. And we know it too, we’ve coined the phrase “Instagram vs. Reality” (the subreddit has almost 900,000 members) to remind ourselves of the very opposite notion: Instagram is not real life.
These issues are bigger than a five-slide deck about safe protesting or videos of forest fires. While Instagram activism posts that go viral can help with visibility, they reduce the events in question to the information provided. These posts, or decks, are informative but also incredibly aesthetically pleasing – they aren’t meant to look political. They are catered to appeal to everyone, including the apolitical Instagrammer who’s missing the carefree, heavily filtered brunch pics from back in 2010 when Instagram first launched. That Instagrammer might not be the type to do more than click like when their favourite makeup brand posts about a newsworthy cause.
Social media activism isn’t a bad thing. Throughout the pandemic, it’s proved to be a great way to be vocal about a cause you care about. However, the people who contribute to the virality of certain Instagram campaigns for nothing but their own best interests, and the ones who believe that a repost alone counts as allyship or solidarity, are slowing down efforts like BLM and distracting Instagrammers from BLM’s goal. Post about the cause you care about, but make sure that’s not all you do, and be aware of why you are posting it.
Campaigns have gone online because of the pandemic, but we have to make sure our social media activism lines up with our values in the real world. We shouldn’t be determining the morality of our favourite business based on its activism-related social media content, while wearing clothing with tags that read “Made in Bangladesh.” We must tread carefully and critically through the growing sea of performative activism. The tide is coming in.
With help from Ryerson’s Social Ventures Zone, tethr hopes to fight stigma surrounding men’s mental health
Conversations about mental health are increasing, but as we navigate the rollercoaster that is 2020 it’s clear there is still much work to do in breaking down stigma.
Men in particular have a difficult time dealing with personal or mental health issues, as a result of toxic male gender roles that have misled us for too long into believing feelings are not manly. But suicide is the third-leading cause of death in Canadian people under 44, and men make up 75 per cent of those deaths.
“Men are much less likely to report if they have anxiety or depression,” says Ryerson professor and clinical psychologist Trevor Hart. “Feeling bothered and distressed is considered as a sign of weakness by other men, and I’d argue by some women as well.”
tethr is a free downloadable app that aims to change the way men talk about their mental health. It’s a peer-led online community for men to share their concerns and feelings and engage in discussions about mental health.
“It might change the narrative so men won’t only turn to locker room talk when they get together, but actually talk about their feelings and how things sometimes suck,” says Hart.
“I don’t think everyone needs to go into paid psychotherapy. Isn’t it great that there are other possibilities that are low-barrier access?”
tethr is one of the ventures working with Ryerson’s Social Ventures Zone, an entrepreneurial incubator. “We were lucky enough to have our app available to download when we joined the Social Ventures Zone, so we really got to go in and fine tune the details with their help,” says Addison Brasil, who co-founded tethr along with Matt Zerker, Burke White and Denny Park.
As we enter our ninth month of the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health resources are more necessary than ever. Rates of anxiety and depression are higher than before lockdowns and restrictions were in place, and students are missing many of their lines of support as they work and study from home.
“That university experience isn’t there. I feel for the first-year students who aren’t getting that first feeling of community at school, and I feel for the final year students struggling with what their future will look like,” says Brasil.
The app is made up of forums, direct messages and customizable groups for men to communicate as publicly or privately as they prefer, and its website features articles and stories to read and share. tethr also hosts virtual events.
tethr has been downloaded over 13,000 times across North America, Europe and Australia, and it is available to any person who identifies as male. “To me, that’s a no brainer,” says Brasil.
While the app is a step in the right direction, Hart says more resources are still needed.
“I don’t think a single app has the power to change an entire gender role,” he says. “Not only should there be more resources for men, there should be more for all of us. There should be other resources specifically for non-binary people.”
tethr is available for download on your smartphone. Its next event called “We F*ck With Feelings” is November 11 at 8 p.m.
The fifth episode of the fall season of Blue & Gold is dedicated to the 2020 US Election – perhaps the most anticipated one in history. This week, our host Nojoud Al Mallees chats with young Canadians and Americans about the outcomes they hope to see on Tuesday and how they expect the election to impact their lives for the years to come. We also speak with Wayne Petrozzi, an expert in American Politics and Ryerson professor for his election predictions and analysis. Blue and Gold is a weekly podcast from the Ryersonian profiling each week’s top stories; created, hosted and produced by Jasmine Rach, Nojoud Al Mallees, Sidra Jafri and Alex Cyr.
‘Borat Subsequent Moviefilm’ reveals the dark side of American conservatism, but will it change voters’ minds?
“Journalists! What we gonna’ do? Chop them up like the Saudis do!”
In the movie Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, Sacha Baron Cohen sings these words at an anti-lockdown rally in June 2020, while he’s disguised as Borat, who’s disguised as an American farmer. People in the crowd need no encouragement to sing the words back to him, cheering and shouting. The movie is full of jaw-dropping moments like this one, that reveal how casual racism and fake news have permeated the minds of many Americans.
The new Borat film, a sequel to Cohen’s 2006 movie, has dominated the news since it was released. Even in the days before its release, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani tweeted to share his disdain. Trump himself referred to Cohen as “phony” and a “creep.”
The U.S. election is Nov. 3, but it’s been all over the news and the media for months, even years.
“The day after Trump took office in January 2017, he started campaigning for 2020. We have our six- to eight-week elections (in Canada), and theirs go on and on,” says Marion Coomey, a professor at Ryerson University. She’s a self-proclaimed news junkie with an extensive background as a TV reporter and producer with CBC News.
Voters have been all-consumed in the divisive, hectic politics of the American election. When movies like Borat are released, politicians do cameos on shows and other movies, and are played by comedians on Saturday Night Live. The lines between American politics and entertainment have been blurred and the 2020 U.S. election has been a bizarre journey of scandals and fake news, even featuring an insect guest star.
Canada’s elections are far less of a spectacle.
“We usually have higher voter turnout than the U.S., so there is less need for parties to stage spectacles to attract the attention of voters,” says Wendy Burton, a professor at Ryerson University. Before coming to Ryerson, Burton had experience as a journalist, a political campaign manager and as the first female president of the Canadian Association of Journalists.
“It’s certainly not the same in Canada,” says Coomey. “We’re a lot more waffly. The difference between New Democrats, Liberals and Conservatives is far less of a difference than between Democrats and Republicans.”
The two-party political system in the U.S. makes for a more contentious and competitive atmosphere during the election. The country is split between red and blue, and there’s very little room for any blending of the two. Politicians hurl insults at each other, unearth family secrets and make up lies. And with America’s obsession with fame, celebrity and reality television, it’s no wonder that watching a presidential debate is as entertaining as watching an episode of Dr. Phil or The Maury Povich Show.
“The entire country is one big reality show, and the presidency is at the centre of it,” says Coomey.
The other side of America’s fame obsession is the idea of “American exceptionalism,” or being taught that the U.S. is the best and most important country in the world. The world continues to turn, but Americans may not realize their election’s media coverage has a tendency to overcompensate.
Trump himself is a master of blurring politics and entertainment. Trampling over Ronald Reagan’s footsteps as the first “actor” president, Trump has carried out his campaigns and his presidency much like his presence on The Apprentice as a tough, merciless mogul. He’s successfully branded himself and branded his opponents to the point where the entire world has heard references to Hillary Clinton as “Crooked Hillary” or to Joe Biden as “Sleepy Joe.” He thrives on media attention and uses Twitter to effectively keep the focus on him and refresh the media’s repertoire of Trump headlines.
The focus is rarely on policy. Americans are more interested in politicians’ history, their family and their lifestyle.
“Most people in the U.S. know very little about their system of government,” says Burton. “A deeper dive into policies would be more productive but would probably not get very high ratings.”
But can politics as entertainment actually sway the minds of American voters?
Trump was accused of sexual assault by at least 26 women, he mocked a reporter with a physical disability, he bragged about groping women without consent and he said that Mexican immigrants are rapists bringing drugs into the U.S., all in the public sphere. It’s clear that Trump voters are not easily swayed by the media spectacles made out of Trump’s missteps.
“If none of those things are changing anybody’s mind, I don’t think Borat will,” says Coomey.
The many degrees of separation between red and blue mean that many Americans have long since known who they plan on voting for, and those who are watching the Borat sequel are likely not doing so for political inspiration.
But the entertainment industry can be effective for those who are new voters, or who weren’t planning to vote at all.
“They’re gambling on it kicking some people in the butts and getting them to the voting booths,” says Coomey. “Young people typically feel disenfranchised, they don’t feel they’re being spoken to. There can be some influence from younger celebrities convincing somebody to vote.”
The final scene of the Borat sequel closes with a demand to all who are watching: “Now vote or you will be execute.” And while no one will actually be executed for not voting in the 2020 U.S. election, lives are at stake.
Perhaps the most dangerous part about the U.S. election as it appears as an entertainment industry, is the notion that it is entertainment and nothing more. The importance of this election goes beyond knowing the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop or Trump’s tax returns, and the Borat sequel, as ridiculous as it is, may be the only way to cut through these headlines.