Mississauga Food Bank sees demand for services rise 60%

by Neil Sharma on 16 Mar 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic and exorbitant living costs have conspired to push Mississauga residents already living on the margins even further to the brink, says the city’s housing bank.

“We’ve seen the number of first-time food bank users rise quicker than it has in the past, just as we also continue seeing housing rates go up,” said Meghan Nicholls, CEO at The Mississauga Food Bank. “For 87% of food bank clients, their total household income is less than $2,000 a month, so for a great majority of them to earn so little, and the average rental cost being over $1,900, it’s just not tenable for these people to afford all these necessities.”

The Mississauga Food Bank has had a 60% increase in people using its services since the pandemic began a year ago compared to the previous 12 months. In 2008-09, the first year of the Great Recession, demand for the food bank’s services only rose by 10%.

According to research conducted by the food bank, only 5% of its users own their homes, 75% rent, and 5% live in social housing, while 358 food bank users experience homelessness or reside in emergency shelters. The research additionally noted that the average one-bedroom rental in Mississauga costs $1,905, and for a household earning $2,000 a month, that only leaves $95 left over.

The Mississauga Food Bank just launched its annual Spring Food Drive to raise $200,000 and 150,000 lbs of food to feed struggling residents in the city of 733,083.

“For us, it goes to show how many people live close to the edge so that when a crisis like COVID comes, it only took days for more people to come to the food bank,” said Nicholls. “People don’t have the reserves to take them through those tough times.”

The situation is especially dire for single-parent households subsisting off of $2,000 government payments but who couldn’t get deferrals on their monthly rent.

“Eighty-seven percent of our clients earn less than $2,000 a month, and if you receive Ontario disability support payments or Ontario Works, you receive $700-1,100 a month. That’s it,” continued Nicholls.

“There’s an incredible amount of arrears in owed rent across the province. There are millions of dollars people owe right now,” she continued. “Overall, COVID has made a situation that was already very challenging almost unmanageable for people living at the bottom income level and we can’t keep doing the same things expecting a different outcome. We need more affordable housing and we need to increase people’s incomes so they can afford to live in this region.”

To donate to food or funds to The Mississauga Food Bank, click here.

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