The problem was that despite constant fundraising, demand for these services meant the cupboards were perpetually bare.
Geoffrey Lougheed, who at the time headed up the Salvation Army, got together with Father Brian McKee, his counterpart at Sudbury Catholic Charities, to see what they could do about the situation.
The result was the 1988 founding of the Sudbury Food Bank, an organization with the simple goal of making sure nobody in the community goes hungry.
Given that the food bank is now 25 years old, several hundred people gathered at the Steelworkers Hall for a Sept. 16 luncheon marking the anniversary.
They also honoured Lougheed, who had served as either the food bank's chair or president for its entire history until he stepped aside last spring.
During the event, the organization announced it is naming its food warehouse after the well-known community volunteer.
Lougheed was also presented with commendations by Mayor Marianne Matichuk, Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci and Sudbury MP Glenn Thibeault.
Lougheed said back when the Sudbury Food Bank was founded, he thought it was just a “band-aid” solution to fill the gaps until government got its act together.
“The reality is, 25 years later, food banks have become part of the social net,” Lougheed said. “I'm quite proud of what we've been able to accomplish.”
He said it's wonderful the Sudbury Food Bank is honouring him for his contributions, but he'd rather focus on the support the community has shown for the food bank.
“The reality is it's literally the community that's the reason Sudbury Food Bank is a success, and that's not lost on me,” Lougheed said.
Sudbury Food Bank executive director Dan Xilon said renaming the food warehouse after Lougheed is a “very deserving” honour.
“A lot of people say they should do something, and some do something,” Xilon said. “Well he did something, and with a lot of help from the community, he got it to where it is today.”
The Sudbury Food Bank's 25th anniversary, though, is something of a bittersweet celebration, he said. On one hand, it's wonderful that the community has supported the charity for a quarter-century, Xilon said.
“But to have been around for 25 years when you're originally supposed to be around for a few years, it's kind of disappointing.”
Instead of handing food out to people directly, Sudbury Food Bank distributes its resources to 47 local organizations, who in turn pass it on to clients in need.
One of the organizations which receives support from the Sudbury Food Bank is Maison Vale Hospice, which receives about $20,000 a year to feed residents and their families.
“That makes a big difference,” hospice executive director Leo Therrien said, adding that the homemade food offered at the Maison Vale Hospice adds to its home-like atmosphere.
“I want to congratulate the food bank for their 25th anniversary,” he said.
“They've helped so many people in our community. I'd also like to congratulate Geoffrey Lougheed today for all the work he's done for 25 years for the food bank.
"Everyone in need benefits from the food bank, so this is a great organization.”
One of the speakers at the event was none other than Gerry Lougheed Jr. - Geoffrey Lougheed's older brother, who is also an active community volunteer.
“Some here today, myself included, and likely my dad up in heaven, would have said 'Geoff, that stuff's impossible,'” Gerry Jr. said.
“But Geoffrey would likely echo you the words of Nelson Mandela and say 'It always seems impossible until it's done' — and Geoffrey got 'er done.”