How roadside free food tables are helping to tackle hunger across the Greater Toronto Area


Residents of Mississauga and Brampton may have noticed an increase over the last year of small, street-side offerings knows as “free food tables.”

The table are regularly stocked with water along with many kinds of dry, non-perishable and packaged foods, with bright red signs encouraging passersby to “take only what you need, leave some for others,” and urging them to “donate food generously to keep the table full.”

The group behind the tables said they have been a huge success and that they are branching out beyond Peel Region to provide supplies across the Greater Toronto Area.

One of the most visible locations is on Charolais Boulevard near Mill Street South in Brampton outside the Shopper’s World mall. Covered in a blue tarp to protect it from the elements, the table is always fully stocked — a point of pride for its caregiver area resident Zarqa Shafiq, who maintains it with those close to her.

“I come out three, four times a day … and I come and fill the table with food that has been donated by family and friends and generous community members,” Shafiq told Global News on Friday.

The items at her table range from canned goods and packaged noodles to fresh items like bread and full meals. She said those are especially important for those living on the streets who may not have access to the equipment needed to prepare canned or raw food.

“In the last six weeks we did 450 sandwiches, which was about 56 loaves all donated by friends and family … A few friends and family decided to do pasta, spaghetti, prepared meals in containers, so we did about 300 of those.”

Shafiq said the items at her table go quickly, so she never worries about the perishable items going bad. It also lets her know just how much need there is for the extra help in her neighbourhood.

Having grown up in Brampton, this is her way of giving back to her community during hard times and fulfilling a tenet of her Muslim faith.