SOURCE: Ontario Association of Food Banks

Ontario Association of Food Banks

November 30, 2015 05:00 ET

Ontario Hunger Report Reveals Staggering Rise in Senior Citizens Accessing Food Banks

Ontario Association of Food Banks' Hunger Report Shows Food Bank Visits Remain High Across Ontario -- With 360,000 Adults and Children Accessing Ontario's Food Banks Each Month

TORONTO, ON--(Marketwired - November 30, 2015) - The Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB) released a new report today, revealing that almost 360,000 individuals -- including 120,000 children -- are turning to food banks each month. The 2015 Hunger Report also finds a 35% spike in the number of senior citizens, and a dramatic rise in the number of single-person households, visiting Ontario's food banks.

"Every day there are adults and children in our province who are forced to choose between their most basic needs, like paying the rent or purchasing food," says Sharon Lee, Executive Director, Ontario Association of Food Banks. "The 2015 Hunger Report illustrates this, and reveals that these individuals are often not who you think."

The 2015 Hunger Report shows that while food bank use has remained consistent over the last several years, Ontario food bank use remains 14% higher than pre-recession numbers, with almost 45,000 more adults and children accessing food banks each month than in 2008. This trend is consistent across Canada with food bank use remaining 26% higher than pre-recession numbers nation-wide. The report goes on to highlight that although the total number of food bank visits are remaining consistent, food banks are seeing a shift in who it is that accesses their services.

"The face of hunger is changing," says Lee. "We have seen a very concerning spike in the number of senior citizens accessing food banks, as well as single-person households -- and believe that these demographic changes are reflective of a lack of affordable housing in our province, insufficient social assistance and senior citizen support programs, and the precarious nature of employment in Ontario."

The report reveals that 12% of all senior citizens now fall below Ontario's Low-Income Measure, with this number more than doubling to 27% when looking at seniors who also identify as single. This trend is expected to continue to grow with the prediction that aging seniors will represent 23% of the population by 2030.

"Senior citizens are at a growing risk of food insecurity, alongside far too many adults and children in our province," says Lee. "Unless measures are implemented to assist those without proper access to safe and affordable housing, nutritious food, and stable employment, this need will only continue to grow."

The 2015 Hunger Report calls for the Government of Ontario to implement policies that address the root causes of hunger in Ontario, including affordable housing, improvements to social assistance, and secure employment.

"It is only through good public policy that we will be able to break the cycle of poverty in Ontario," says Lee. "In the meantime, food banks will continue to provide an essential service to those who need our help. Alongside fresh and healthy food, food banks provide a myriad of programs and services to help bridge the gap when seniors, children, and families have trouble making ends meet."

The 2015 Hunger Report includes two special features: Isolated Communities, a detailed account of food insecurity in Northern Ontario, and From the Perspective of a Client, a story written by Jacqueline Davidson, who is a food bank client in Southwestern Ontario and mother of three.

"Living in a cycle of 'not enough' is exhausting. Every day you are treading water to stay afloat," said Davidson. "But my food bank has offered hope and encouragement in so many ways and we have been blessed with: income tax return help, summer camp for our children, winter coats and boots, bus tickets… the list is endless. I no longer feel helpless. I know that there are tools to keep me afloat. I know that we will make it."

2015 Hunger Report Highlights and Trends

  • Hunger by the numbers
    • 358,963 people accessed food banks across Ontario in March 2015, with 120,554 of those clients being children under 18 years of age
    • 35% increase in senior citizens visiting food banks over the previous year
    • 49% of food bank clients are single-person households
    • 90% of food bank clients are either rental or social housing tenants
  • Senior Citizens
    • Over 12% of senior citizens fall below Ontario's Low Income Measure. This number more than doubles to 27% when looking at seniors who also identify as single
    • Senior citizens are expected to represent 23% of the population by 2030
  • Single Person Households
    • Single person households represent almost 50% of those who visit food banks, an 11% increase over the past 5 years
    • The average food bank client spends 70% of their income on rent, leaving very little for all other necessities
    • 1 in 3 jobs in Ontario is temporary, contract, or part-time. An individual working full time, at minimum-wage will have an annual income of approximately $21,000, falling well below Ontario's Low Income Measure
  • How Food Banks Help: Food banks offer fresh, healthy food, as well as programs that go beyond emergency food support. This includes: training opportunities and apprentice programs, community gardens, shelter and housing help, child care, dental programs, budgeting and economics workshops, and employment search assistance.

To download a full copy of the 2015 Hunger Report, or to find out more about food banks in Ontario and how you can donate, please visit www.oafb.ca/hungerreport2015.

About OAFB

The Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB) is a network of 125 food banks, and over 1,100 affiliate hunger-relief agencies, across Ontario. This includes: breakfast clubs, school meal programs, community food centres, community kitchens, emergency shelters, and seniors centres. Together, this network serves 360,000 individuals every single month. For everyone $1 donated, the OAFB can provide the equivalent of three meals to someone in need.

Contact Information

  • For more information, please contact:
    Amanda King
    Ontario Association of Food Banks
    amanda@oafb.ca
    416-656-4100