Food bank use remains at an all time high with a nearly 50% increase in users who are employed, says a new report.
According to FeedOntario data, 587,103 adults and children accessed a food bank in the province between April 1st, 2021, to March 31st, 2022 – an increase of 15 percent over the last three years.
Ontario’s food banks were visited more than 4,353,000 times throughout the year, an increase of 42 percent over the last three years. There has been a 47% increase in people with employment accessing food banks since 2018, the report stated.
Additional food bank data shows that between this January and September, the number of people accessing a food bank increased by 24% over the previous year alone.
First time visitors have increased 64% over pre-pandemic levels, with 1 in 3 visitors being those who had never turned to a food bank for assistance before.
Ontario’s food banks were visited an average of 403,000 times per month, a 20% increase over the previous year and a 56% increase over the monthly average leading up to the pandemic.
When asked the reason for visiting a food bank, 45.8% cited cost of food, 13.2% cited cost of housing, and 9.9% cited low wages or not enough work hours.
In the two years leading up to the pandemic, the number of people with employment turning to food banks for assistance increased by 27% and an additional 16% between 2020 – 2022. In fact, almost 1 in 10 of those employed in Ontario are gig workers.
Inadequate disability supports are another reason – 2 out of 3 people who access food banks are social assistance recipients with 32.5% citing ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) and 26% citing OW (Ontario Works) as their primary source of income.
Disinvestment in social housing – 70% of food bank visitors spend 68% or more of their monthly income on rent. Yet to be considered affordable, housing costs should not exceed 30% of a household’s total monthly income.
FeedOntario is concerned that the need in the province may outpace the capacity of the provincial food bank network. A recent survey of 140 food banks revealed that two out of three have experienced a noticeable decrease in food donations and one in five have not been able to purchase the same volume due to higher food prices.
“While there are not shortage of ways that the Government of Ontario can improve income security and affordability in our province, Feed Ontario would like to put forward the following recommendations as immediate first steps that can be taken to improve the health and well-being of Ontarians and decrease the need for food banks,” the collective said in a statement.
“Provide gig workers with the same employment protections as other sectors; close the gap on poverty by increasing social assistance rates to a basic standard of living; make affordable housing accessible so people don’t have to choose between paying the rent or buying food; and put people with lived experience at the centre of policy and program design,” the statement read.