By Maddy Gordon - March 1, 2022
For Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Pam Farrell, knowing one in eight Canadian households have trouble putting food on the table simply wasn’t something she was going to sit around and watch.
The volunteer executive director of GROW Community Food Literacy Centre was able to recognize a much bigger problem at hand and decided to take action.
Her hard work has not gone unnoticed. Farrell has been selected as one of 10 honourees in the L’Oréal’s Women of Worth program, which is designed to empower and celebrate women for their accomplishments and services they’ve contributed to their communities.
Every year, each recipient is granted $10,000 to help keep funding their organization.
Nominations are judged on the criteria of their impact, community needs and solutions, passion and innovation.
Farrell has received $10,000 for being selected as one of the 10 honourees and now needs voters to help her win the national competition, for a shot at another $10,000.
“I just felt so honoured to be selected as one of the 10 L’Oréal Paris Women of Worth, because it’s such a far-reaching program,” she said.
Farrell says the money will be used to broaden the GROW's programs, particularly the subsidized food market that it offers.
“We’re hoping to expand that to accommodate the increase in demand that we’ve seen for this type of service.”
Closer to home, Farrell says food insecurity has always been a large issue in Niagara, and with the addition of the pandemic, she says the call for solutions has only grown louder.
A former elementary, secondary and adult-level teacher who studied language literacy at the University of Calgary, Farrell said the term literacy does not just have to entail reading and writing — it’s an all-encompassing subject.
During her teaching years, she says she was able to see the consequences of food insecurity on families first-hand. Thus, her passion for food literacy was born.
Through her work with GROW, Farrell has been helping to fight food insecurity, promote healthier lifestyles and create sustainability through supporting low-income community members, specifically in the Elgin neighbourhood in Niagara Falls.
GROW's work includes running a weekly low-cost food market, as well as a community kitchen that offers a variety of cooking and food skills programs. Both of these ambitions are what help make GROW such a comfortable and inviting environment to those who suffer from food insecurity, Farrell said.
The organization has been able to help hundreds of local community members, including the more than 500 people who are registered with its market. To add to that number, Farrell estimates that with all of GROW’s initiatives and other programs, the organization has been able to reach close to 15,000 people.
Farrell said the most gratifying part of her work has been seeing the model come to life – and actually help people in need.
“A rewarding moment is seeing that it’s working. It’s making a difference and so many people are benefiting from it,” she said.
As for the future of GROW, she said the next steps will be heavily focused on advocating for those who live with food insecurity, by reaching out to all levels of government, especially at the federal level.
“From a federal perspective we can address poverty, which is at the root cause of food insecurity.”
Farrell plans to address these issues through better social security programs, since the majority of people who are food insecure are in social systems and those programs simply do not cover their basic needs.
Another big part of helping food insecure families is to help advocate for fair wages, “really driving the advocacy, advocating for a livable income, better social security service and expanding our programs so that we can reach more people that are low-income.”
Farrell is hoping to garner votes for the upcoming Women of Worth event this March. She would like to encourage everyone to vote for GROW, to help them win the additional $10,000 to support and expand their programs.
You can vote for Farrell at lorealparis.ca/en-ca/women-of-worth.