Ontario Association of Food Banks Hunger Report Reveals Record Number of Ontarians Accessing Food Banks for the First Time

Report finds nearly 375,000 food bank visits per month, while as many as 1.7 million jobs in Ontario are considered insecure

December 1, 2014, Toronto, ON – The Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB) released its 2014 Hunger Report today, revealing that almost 375,000 individuals – more than one third children – are turning to food banks each month. This year’s report also finds a 20 per cent spike in first time use and illustrates some surprising statistics about who is going hungry, and why poverty and hunger numbers haven’t dipped since the 2008 recession.

“Since the recession, food bank use increased dramatically from 314,000 in 2008 to levels that have not dipped below 370,000 in recent years,” said Amanda King, Ontario Association of Food Banks. “Unstable employment conditions, unsustainable wages and rising costs on essentials like food, transportation, hydro and gas are forcing a growing number of Ontarians to have to choose between paying their bills or putting food on the table.”

The 2014 Hunger Report includes a Working Poor feature that explores some of the conditions affecting Ontarians who are working but struggling to make ends meet. These include areas where the provincial government is falling short on implementing policies that create long-term solutions to ending poverty and hunger in Ontario.

“We are calling for the Ontario government to implement a monthly Ontario Housing Benefit for low income tenants, based on their rent and income,” said King. “We are also making it clear that increased payments and updates to Ontario’s social assistance programs, as well as funding for the transportation of fresh healthy foods for Ontario’s most vulnerable communities, are crucial.”

One of the main factors contributing to food insecurity has been unstable employment. Currently 1.7 million jobs in Ontario are considered insecure, and since 2008, of the jobs created in Canada, 80 per cent have been temporary positions, contributing to the pervasive problem of hunger in Ontario.

“In order to alleviate hunger, the Government of Ontario must step up and implement good public policy that addresses the needs of its most vulnerable citizens,” said King. “In the meantime, food banks will continue to provide an essential service to Ontario’s hungry.”

Some of the highest numbers of food bank users in Ontario are women over 18, (45 per cent), children (35 per cent), people with a disability (30 per cent), new Canadians (10 per cent) and First Nations persons (6 per cent). University students and senior citizens in rural communities remain two of the fastest growing groups of food bank users.

“My local food bank not only provided me with healthy, regular meals, but also with the support I needed to find housing as well as skills and resources to find work,” said Jessica Manuel, a former food bank user who now works as a professional speaker. “I’m grateful for the support services that allowed me the stability and confidence to give my daughter the life she deserved and stop the cycle of poverty that had plagued my family for so many years.”

2014 Hunger Report Highlights and Trends

Hunger by the numbers: 374,698 people accessed food banks across Ontario in March 2014, with 17,182 of them doing so for the first time.

The face of hunger: The largest groups of food bank users are children, women over 18, single parent families, individuals who require social assistance and rental tenants.

Hunger across Ontario: Fifty per cent of all food acquired and distributed by the OAFB to its 125 member food banks across the province is either fresh or frozen, with a growing focus on protein like milk, eggs, turkey, chicken, beef, lamb and pork.

Services beyond the table: Food banks offer programming that goes beyond providing food, including: clothing/ furniture programs, community gardens, shelter programs, budgeting and economics workshops, and employment search assistance.

Feature: The Working Poor

According to the Metcalf Foundation’s report, a person is considered the ‘working poor’ if they have an after tax income below the Low Income Measure, have earnings of at least $3,000 per annum, is between the ages of 18-64, is not a student and lives independently.

Most people who access food banks are either on social assistance or on Provincial or private disability support. 64 per cent of food bank users are renters compared to only 0.8 per cent of food bank users that are homeless and 1 per cent that are living in a shelter

Ontario has seen an increase in the number of individuals classified as the ‘working poor’. Between 1996 and 2008, working poverty rates in Ontario increased 73 per cent. This is in part due to Ontario’s changing employment structure and the growth in part-time, casual, and/or temporary forms of work.

More than 50 per cent of Ontarians who are considered to be ‘the working poor’ have some type of post-secondary education and are living in a two-person household.

From 1996 to 2009, the self-reported health of Ontarians working in poverty has declined significantly, with fewer individuals reporting good health 49 per cent compared to 68 per cent.

About OAFB

The Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB) is a network of over 125 food banks, and over 1,100 hunger-relief agencies, across Ontario. This includes: breakfast clubs, school meal programs, community food centres, community kitchens, emergency shelters, and senior centres. Together, they serve 375,000 individuals every single month.

For more information please contact:

Amanda King | Ontario Association of Food Banks | amanda@oafb.ca | 416-656-4100

Laura Creedon | Pilot PMR | laura.creedon@pilotpmr.com | 416-462-0199 ext. 231


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