The Face of
Each year when reporting to you on the state of hunger in Mississauga, I am saddened anew by the stress and pain of poverty experienced by so many in our community. Previously hard-working seniors now retired and unable to pay their bills, workers with disabilities struggling to find well-paying employment, single parents challenged with the task of providing for their hungry kids.
A record number of neighbours needed help from The Mississauga Food Bank this past year. We recorded 10% more visits to neighbourhood food banks and meal, snack and breakfast programs than in the year prior. When interviewing food bank clients, it became clear why - inadequate income and a lack of affordable housing continue to force our neighbours to rely on the food bank in order to provide basic necessities for their families.
The most startling trend is the drastic increase in the number of people reporting that they have no source of income at all. A staggering 20% of food bank clients indicate that they are not currently receiving any support from social assistance, family, or employment. The number reporting primary income from employment has also decreased, making it clear that secure jobs are a growing concern for food bank clients.
The Mississauga Food Bank can only feed our neighbours when supported by our caring community. Thanks to you, we are here, ready, and able to meet today and tomorrow’s growing need for healthy food for those living in poverty.
Together we can achieve a Mississauga where no one goes hungry,
Chris Hatch, Executive Director
Low income or NO Income?
As the cost of living increases, so does the need for emergency food in Mississauga. The sixth largest city in Canada, Mississauga is home to over 721,599 people. Despite being a centre of industry and employment, the cold hand of poverty continues to grip many neighbours in the community. Over the last year, The Mississauga Food Bank recorded over 207,000 visits to its programs - approximately 18,000 more visits than in 2016. This increase in volume can be linked to the primary challenge that continues to plague food bank clients year over year - inadequate income. And as the cost of housing, food, and utilities continue to rise, those struggling with hunger will find it even more difficult to cover basic living necessities.
When asked their primary reason for visiting the food bank, 31% of clients responded “Low Income/Part Time Hours”.
If having an “adequate income” means that an individual or family is able to afford the basic costs of living in their city, the majority of food bank clients are unable to meet this standard. Most simply do not earn enough to pay for basic needs. While the average income of a Mississauga food bank client is approximately $1,414/month, many clients report an income much lower than this. 42% of clients rely on social assistance as their primary source of income, receiving an average of $974/month from Ontario Works (OW) or $1,146/month from the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).
Another startling trend is the sharp increase in the number of households that cite a family breakup as their primary reason for requiring a food bank, a figure that jumped from 12% to 26% of clients in the last year. This rise could be related to the jump in the number of clients reporting no income whatsoever. A staggering 20% of clients indicated that they are not currently receiving any support from the government, family or employment. This increase in ‘no income’ clients is paired with a 25% decrease in the number of clients whose primary income is employment, suggesting that job security and employment are growing and stressful concerns for food bank clients.
Lack of income and employment insecurity coupled with soaring costs of food and rental housing equals a recipe for financial hardship and leads us to forecast that even more of our neighbours will need help in the upcoming year. Over the next 12 months, The Mississauga Food Bank projects a 6% increase in the number of visits to our food programs. That’s an additional 12,420 visits a year from individuals, families and seniors who are struggling to make bill payments and meet basic needs.
Positive steps are being taken, however, innovative and collaborative approaches from all levels of government, businesses and social services are required to ensure A Mississauga Where No One Goes Hungry. We look forward to the social and economic benefits that programs like Ontario’s Basic Income Pilot Project and the raising of minimum wage will bring to hungry members of our community. With a basic guaranteed income and increased employment earnings, more food bank clients will be able to transition out of requiring the services of their local food bank.
The Cost of Healthy Eating
Even with help from the food bank, the average food bank client in Mississauga is spending 23% of their monthly income on food. Everyone wants to feed their families the healthiest food possible, but it can be up to three times more expensive than unhealthy, heavily processed alternatives. It’s also much easier, when time is short, to stop at the local fast food joint instead of the grocery store.
A lack of income or high housing costs should not mean that parents have to feed their children processed, unhealthy food. When hard times strike, families rely on the food bank to stretch their grocery budget and keep their families healthy and thriving. That’s why providing nutritious food options is our main priority.
The Mississauga Food Bank has aligned our food distribution with Canada’s Food Guide to ensure we provide adequate amounts of fruit and vegetables, healthy grains, dairy products and meat and alternatives to clients each month.
Until five years ago, Daniel had always had a good job, working in a factory. But then he had knee surgery and started developing hip problems. He was forced to quit his job because he was no longer able to “get the job done according to company requirements”.
Since then, making ends meet has been a struggle. Despite his injury, Daniel had to find any job he could to pay the bills and put food on the table. Now Daniel works three 12-hour shifts a week at a factory earning minimum wage while he looks for a better paying job.
Even with this income and what he and his wife receive from social assistance, they struggle to survive as a family of two. Daniel now comes to the food bank once a month to receive healthy food to offset his family’s grocery expenses, allowing them to use their meagre earnings for their home, utilities, and transportation.
“There are so many people in Mississauga who are in need. Some of them are in worse situations than I am, because I’m not completely in chaos. I hope someday I’m in the position to help the food bank, rather than coming to receive. I think it is much better to give than to receive.” -Daniel