Head of Mississauga’s largest food bank sounds the alarm as more people fall into poverty


Published November 17, 2022 at 12:24 pm

The head of Mississauga’s largest food bank is sounding the alarm as more and more city residents need help feeding their families and are falling even deeper into poverty.

Meghan Nicholls, CEO of The Mississauga Food Bank, told Mississauga City council yesterday (Nov. 16) the demand for that organization’s services is greater than ever as the holiday season approaches.

The food bank distributed food for more than 5.6 million meals in Mississauga in the last year, and that number is expected to grow.

“We’re working hard to keep up with the level of demand we’re now seeing, but to be honest, I’m concerned about the future,” said Nicholls, who appeared before City councillors to provide an update on the “critical need” in Mississauga and efforts to address that need, such as Mayor Bonnie Crombie’s 2022 Holiday Food Drive.

Nicholls said The Mississauga Food Bank is growing so rapidly that it had to move to a much larger location. On Dec. 1, it will move into its new digs at 4544 Eastgate Pkwy., just south of Eglinton Ave.

“It’s unfortunate we need to lease a new building. It’s twice the size of the one we’re currently leasing,” she said. “It’s costing us almost $1 million a year just to rent that facility, but we needed more room for more fresh food and for the services we provide.”

Meghan Nicholls, CEO of The Mississauga Food Bank, speaks to City council on Wednesday about the dire need of a growing number of Mississauga residents. 

Nicholls added that the organization’s growth is no reason to celebrate.

“It means more and more of our neighbours are becoming food insecure. And those who are already clients of the food bank are falling into a deeper level of poverty,” she said. “As prices rise for all of us…we are now hearing folks tell us, ‘I used to donate to you, but now I need your help’.”

The Mississauga Food Bank CEO also told council that food bank use both in Mississauga and across Canada is at the highest level ever.

“Every month is a record-breaking month as fewer and fewer people can afford the basics of living without our help. It’s more people, more often who need more support,” said Nicholls.

Turning to the mayor’s latest Holiday Food Drive, which was launched this week and will continue until Jan. 6, Nicholls said it’s the most crucial food drive to date.

“This is the year where your support is more critical than ever,” Nicholls told council, adding food banks receive very little government funding. “The Region of Peel has given special funding to food banks because of the circumstances we’re in and provides 1.5 per cent of our annual operating funding. But there’s no provincial or federal support for food bank services, unlike many other social services. We rely almost solely on donations from the community to operate.

“This campaign’s success is crucial to ensuring there will be enough funds and food to feed all those who are going to require assistance from the food bank.”

So, “our goals this year are aggressive,” she continued. “We need to raise $1.7 million and 450,000 pounds of food.

“The community has been unbelievably generous since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, but our vulnerable neighbours are now battling inflation, the rising costs of living as they struggle to make ends meet. And the urgent need continues to grow.”

Crombie said everyone is “painfully aware” of the pressures that inflation and the pandemic have put on household budgets.

“We can all appreciate the dire need facing our residents and why The Mississauga Food Bank is seeing such a marked increase in demand,” she said. “We’d really like to put you out of business…if we could, but unfortunately there’s still a lot of need here in Mississauga.”

Ward 5 Councillor Carolyn Parrish said the Region of Peel last year provided an extra $1 million to the food bank for two years, and “I’d like to see the Region continue to provide that money. I’m launching that lobby now.

“The food banks are not supported by anyone and if we didn’t have you and we didn’t have the food banks, we’d have a lot of very sad and hungry people in the city.”

The Mississauga Food Bank is the city’s central food bank, with a network of more than 50 agencies. It has seen an almost 60 per cent increase in food bank users from before the pandemic.

The organization serves more than 30,000 people in need annually.

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