Nearly 600,000 people accessed Ontario food banks in one year: report | The Canadian News

TORONTO – Use of food banks in Ontario increased 10 percent in the first year of the pandemic to the highest levels since the recession, according to a new report.

Nearly 600,000 people made more than 3.6 million visits to food banks in Ontario between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021, according to an annual report by Feed Ontario, a collective of anti-food organizations. hunger in the province.

Siu Mee Cheng, the group’s acting chief executive officer, said COVID-19 has exacerbated income insecurity and affordability issues in the province.

“This is an extremely alarming trend,” he said in an interview.

“The pandemic has had an impact on individuals and families and as a result, they are reaching food banks.”

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The number of people needing basic food support increased by 10 percent this year compared to the previous year, the highest annual increase since 2009, according to the report.

The document reflects data collected by 132 food banks and 1,100 affiliated social support organizations in Ontario.

Cheng said current social security programs in the province, including Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program, are not comprehensive and those who depend on them end up needing to access food banks.

“They represent 59 percent of all visitors to food banks,” he said. “Social assistance programs are not enough to help people buy the food they need and address their hunger problems.”

Meanwhile, less than one percent of those who accessed food banks were receiving the Canada Emergency Response Benefit that the federal government introduced to help those who lost their jobs due to COVID-19.

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“The benefit of CERB was doing what it had to do. It enabled people to provide for the basic necessities of life, including food, ”Cheng said.

The report shows that 86 percent of visitors to food banks are rental tenants rather than social housing tenants and more than 50 percent of the subject cited that housing and utility costs forced them to seek food support. basic.

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“Housing affordability is a great reason to drive people to food banks,” Cheng said.

The number of food bank users who were 65 and older has increased by 36% since last year and by 64% since 2008.

The report found that older adults are almost twice as likely to access a food bank compared to those under 65. It also found that a third of food bank users were people with disabilities.

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“That is a really sad and disturbing trend that we are seeing in society right now,” Cheng said. “Some of the most vulnerable people … have to face hunger problems and need to go to food banks to alleviate some of those problems.”

The 2008 financial crisis resulted in a similar increase in the number of people using food banks, Cheng said, and the impact of that crisis lasted for more than two years.

When people lose their income from work, they generally drain all their resources, including their savings and any support they can get from family and friends before accessing food banks, he said.

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“When the pandemic ends, the impact on people who go to food banks will continue several years later,” he said. “We do not anticipate in several years that the numbers will decrease, unfortunately. It will probably continue to increase. “

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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