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People biting into those tasty Smile Cookies at local Tim Hortons restaurants next month will also be taking a bite out of hunger and helping others to eat more healthy food.

That’s because the Niagara Falls Tim Hortons owners have selected the GROW Community Food Literacy Centre and Project SHARE as the recipients of this year’s weeklong initiative that runs from May 1 to May 7 at local Timmies outlets.

Each year, the owners come together to select local charities to receive the funds from the sale of the cookies with their signature pink-and-blue icing smiley faces. Previous supported causes have ranged from Hospice Niagara and Big Brothers Big Sisters to the Niagara Falls Soup Kitchen and Women’s Place of South Niagara (now Birchway Niagara).

Over the course of the weeklong fundraiser, each restaurant will be serving up Smile Cookies for $1.50 plus tax, with 100 per cent of the proceeds from the sales going to the two local charities combating food insecurity.

It’s part of a national Smile Cookie campaign that sees proceeds go to hundreds of charities. Last year, the initiative raised a record-breaking $15 million for charities and community groups.

Project SHARE provides 15 essential support services for vulnerable families and individuals, with homelessness prevention and providing emergency food through its food bank core services.

GROW operates a subsidized food market each Saturday out of a former Scouts building in downtown Niagara Falls, an area that GROW founder Pam Farrell has termed a “food desert” because of the dearth of healthy food options available.

Farrell estimates 75 per cent of the people accessing the GROW market have Type 2 diabetes, which the Mayo Clinic says can lead to severe complications such as amputations, kidney failure and heart and blood vessel damage.

GROW community development co-ordinator Lindsay Krahn said that as an agency that doesn’t receive stable government funding, the Smile Cookie funds will make a big impact so more people can access healthy food such as produce and fruit at a fraction of what it costs in a supermarket.

“We’re seeing more than 500 people on a regular basis at our Saturday markets,” she said in an interview. “It seems like every week there’s new people signing up.”

“It tells you what the need is for things addressing aspects of food insecurity,” said Krahn. “It really is a big problem in Niagara Falls.”

Project SHARE executive director Pam Sharp said being selected as a Smile Cookie recipient is huge for her agency at a time when the need for help is setting new records.

“We are in a crisis situation here in Niagara Falls, where the need for our emergency services is at an all-time high,” she said in a news release.

In the last calendar year, the agency served more than 9,300 people, which is about one in every 10 people in the city.

“We can’t meet this significant need alone, and proceeds from this campaign will help us provide essential services to ensure everyone in our community is fed, housed and healthy,” said Sharp. “We are grateful to the Niagara Falls Tim Hortons owners for this opportunity and look forward to creating smiles in our community, both on cookies and on the faces of those we serve.”

GROW’s Krahn said that while most of the agency’s clients are from Niagara Falls, it’s now seeing clients from further afield.

“Any funding we receive (from Smile Cookies) will go to support our subsidized market and working on expanding our programs to better meet the needs of the expanding group of people using the service,” she said. “It’s definitely a big fundraiser for us. We’re so grateful to be selected as a recipient.”