2020 has been a difficult year for everyone, but especially difficult for those who’ve found themselves, for varying reasons, unable to consistently afford basics life like enough food to eat. David Beasley, the head of the United Nations food agency said back in April 2020 that the world was on the brink of a “hunger pandemic” that would only be exacerbated by the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, predicting that more people would die from the damage to the economy than the virus itself. With COVID-19 still in its second wave in most of the world, we can’t yet evaluate whether Beasley’s prediction holds. However, we do know that during the COVID-19 pandemic, food insecurity among Canadians increased by 39%, to the point where 1 in 7 Canadians is “unable to buy food or worried about running out without the means to buy more.”
Bill and Shirley Graham, recognizing that not everyone always has the availability or access to transportation required to access an open food bank, especially with the scaled-back hours that became common during the pandemic, wanted to help ensure that marginalized groups, homeless people, and veterans in the Mississauga area could get the food they needed. The 80-year-old husband-and-wife team started setting up a collapsible table in mid-March 2020 near Mississauga’s city centre, filling the table three times daily with food and bottles of water. They also provide information about food banks and other community services to those that need it. The need was so great that they set up another table at Dundas and Sheppard, and they’d like to set up more.
CBC Writer Ania Bessonov reported, “The couple…relied on their savings and whatever they had in their house to keep the table replenished, they said. Then, friends and strangers started to donate.” They also get support from informal partnerships with the Royal Canadian Legion, The Deacon’s Cupboard (operated by five churches in Mississauga) , and other community organizations. This community support has let them also offer winter clothing and protective masks at the tables to those in need.
Bill and Shirley talk to the people who use the tables, and are amazed at the stories. “Some of them are people who shouldn’t be on the street,” Bill told Peter Miller in a recent podcast interview. “For some reason they lose their home, their room, they lose their job, and it’s easy for that to happen, but it’s very hard for them to get back to where they were.”
“What we’re doing is Band-Aids,” he says later.
Very, very few people are on the streets because they choose to be. Bill and Shirley have heard stories about how their efforts have literally save lives. Thank you, Bill and Shirley, for all the good that you do for your community!
To hear more about Bill and Shirley’s story, listen to Peter Miller’s fascinating podcast interview with Bill. You can contact Bill about supporting their work or starting your own food table at email@example.com.