Mayor’s Thanksgiving food drive closes in on home plate

BY CATHERINE SOPLET

The need persists for food drives in Peel Region this fall. In the final two weeks of its annual Thanksgiving Food Drive, ending Oct. 17, The Mississauga Food Bank was over halfway to meeting its campaign goal of raising $400,000 and 200,000 pounds of food.

The food bank distributes food through a network of over 50 agencies and offers programs to alleviate food insecurity in the city, including their Food Bank 2 Home program, which delivers food to those who are homebound. That means healthy and appropriate food was available for more hungry children, seniors, families, and neighbours this Thanksgiving. So far, over $200,000 and more than 150,000 pounds of food have been donated through its donation goal.

“A $60 donation provides healthy and appropriate food for 120 meals,” says Joanna Burke, the food bank’s Director of Marketing and Communications. “Other ways to help are to share the campaign on social media platforms or join The Mississauga Food Bank as a volunteer.”

Kicking off the home stretch its campaign deadline of Oct. 17, five Mississauga MPPs participated in a Food Sort last Friday and learned more from representatives at the food bank regarding how hunger and the housing crisis often go hand in hand. Last year, The Mississauga Food Bank served 25,801 unique individuals in our community.

Average visits per person are up by 22 per cent over last year, and unique visits totalled 162,472 this past year. Since Mar. 2020, demand across The Mississauga Food Bank’s network has dramatically increased. Sustained job losses under COVID restrictions now mean over 100,000 in Mississauga live below the poverty line, with almost 45 per cent of clients reporting social assistance as their main source of income. According to Feed Ontario, the province’s largest collective of hunger relief organizations, half of all food bank clients in the province are worried about defaulting on rent or facing eviction within the next 6 months.

Clients experience nearly a $400 gap between average market rent and average income, with 70 per cent paying market rent for their homes. Those accessing social housing services, which include temporary sheltering, account for only seven per cent of food bank users. The stark reality for the average food bank client is to spend 70 per cent of their income on housing, leaving only 30 per cent for basics like food, utilities, health care, education, transit, clothing, and personal care.

Feed Ontario analysts estimate the cost of poverty in Ontario is $33 billion for the province. Homelessness leads to disproportionate emergency services and hospitalization, amounting to as much as $25,000 per day for a single person. Yet, currently, the Ontario government devotes only 0.3 per cent of its budget to affordable housing compared to other forms of programs.

In July 2013, the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) called for action: “Access to safe, affordable housing is an important determining factor for a person’s health.“ OMA’s research showed that patient treatment and health outcomes are compromised where a patient faces unstable housing and inadequate food security.

In 2019, under federal National Housing Strategy legislation, housing has now been deemed a right in Canada. In this context, Feed Ontario is calling on the provincial government with four primary action items, to: invest in the construction and repair of affordable housing units; expand the Canada-Ontario housing benefit; strengthen housing and rental laws; and provide rent relief to low-income tenants facing eviction due to COVID-19. Bringing it home, The Mississauga Food Bank asked MPPs ahead of Thanksgiving weekend:

“It takes all of us to feed our hungry neighbours. Together we can ensure no one goes hungry today.” “The question is – what about tomorrow?

About the author

Asia Metro Editor

Surjit Singh Flora
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