Ontario food bank use… on the rise again
TheStar.com – news/article
Published On Mon Mar 19 2012. Laurie Monsebraaten, Social Justice Reporter
A slight dip in food-bank use across the province in 2011 may be short-lived, says the Ontario Association of Food Banks.
Although the number of food-bank users in March 2011 was down slightly from March 2010, food banks collecting data this month for next year’s report say demand is up again, the association said.
“It is a real concern,” said Bill Laidlaw, executive director of the association, a network of 20 regional food banks and more than 100 community food banks across Ontario.
Amid steady increases since the 2008 recession, 395,000 Ontarians were forced to rely on food banks in March last year, according to the association’s latest report released Monday. That is down from a record of 402,000 in March 2010.
Among the reasons for the current increase are recent plant closures in southern Ontario and native people leaving troubled reserves in the north, Laidlaw said. Meanwhile, food prices have been rising by an average of 3 per cent annually and shelter costs have been growing by 2.2 per cent a year.
While the national unemployment rate in 2011 was the lowest since 2008, food bank use persists because many laid-off workers are taking lower-paying jobs and having trouble making ends meet, Laidlaw added.
Ten per cent of food bank users in 2011 had never sought emergency assistance before, a figure unchanged from 2010, he noted.
Single adults remain the largest percentage of users, at 39 per cent, followed closely by children younger than 18. They are among almost one in 33 Ontarians who go hungry each month, the report says.
Expected cuts to provincial and federal budgets later this month may make the situation even worse, the association said.
The association recommends an Ontario housing benefit for low-income tenants to help those struggling to pay rent and buy food.
It is also calling on Queen’s Park to encourage all farmers, food producers, processors and retailers to donate a fixed percentage of their products annually to food banks to help meet the demand.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Laidlaw said. “It’s called corporate social responsibility.”
About 15 per cent of Ontario food banks reported running out of food last March and about half had to buy more food than usual.
HUNGER IN ONTARIO
• 395,000 individuals a month rely on food banks
• One in 33 Ontarians goes hungry each month
• 39% are single adults
• 38% are under age 18
• 45% are on welfare
• 10% are first-time users
• Average user pays 72% of income on rent
Source: Ontario Association of Food Banks 2011 report
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