Canada

Food bank use reaches record high across Ontario

Article content

Food bank use has escalated to record levels across Ontario with the largest single-year increase in over a decade, according to a report released by Feed Ontario.

Advertisement

Article content

Across the Windsor area, the story is the same, said June Muir, CEO for the UHC Hub of Opportunities and president of the Windsor-Essex Food Bank Association.

“A lot of people are still not back to work,” she said. “We have had a lot of new first-time users. Windsor has a lot of hospitality workers. Last year, the casino was closed, restaurants have closed and many are not back to work.

“Some who have gone back to work are still so far behind in their bills that it takes awhile to recover. Think of what rent or food costs have been of late. Think about if they have to put kids in day care. It all adds up and there is nothing left over for food.”

UHC not only hands out groceries through its own food bank, but also is a supplier for 15 other food banks across Windsor and Essex County.

Advertisement

Article content

Mohamed Chreif, a volunteer at the Unemployed Help Centre of Windsor is shown in the food bank area of the organization on Friday, October 29, 2021.
Mohamed Chreif, a volunteer at the Unemployed Help Centre of Windsor is shown in the food bank area of the organization on Friday, October 29, 2021. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

From April 2020 until the end of March this year, UHC helped supply food 166,000 times to visitors in need at all area food banks — an 11 per cent increase over the previous year. Over the past year, UHC has logged nearly 10,000 people locally who are new to requiring food bank assistance, Muir said.

Feed Ontario which released its 2021 Hunger Report this week details a record 592,308 people accessed emergency food support across the province last year, visiting more than 3.6 million times. That was an increase of 10 per cent and 12 per cent, respectively over the previous year.

The numbers represent the largest single-year increase since 2009, the agency said.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a major factor, but growing income insecurity and escalating living expenses, such as for housing are also to blame.

Advertisement

Article content

“Like gasoline on a fire, COVID-19 only compounded income security and affordability issues in Ontario,” says Siu Mee Cheng, Feed Ontario’s interim executive director. “This includes the province’s insufficient social safety net, the rise in precarious employment and increasingly unaffordable housing and living costs.”

A new west end drive-through food hub at opened at the Adie Knox Arena on Thursday, September 17, 2020. The Unemployed Help Centre of Windsor is working with the City of Windsor and Government of Canada to ensure continued food security for residents in need. Leilani Logronio, a city of Windsor employee is shown on the rink where the food for the program is stored.
A new west end drive-through food hub at opened at the Adie Knox Arena on Thursday, September 17, 2020. The Unemployed Help Centre of Windsor is working with the City of Windsor and Government of Canada to ensure continued food security for residents in need. Leilani Logronio, a city of Windsor employee is shown on the rink where the food for the program is stored. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

There was a 36 per cent increase in the number of senior citizens in the past year turning to food banks for support, the report said.

“While there are a number of contributing factors, the most significant is how the growing lack of affordability associated with housing and the cost of living have become, particularly for those on a fixed income and low-income earners,” Cheng said.

Another demographic highlighted in the report are people with disabilities, who represent a third of all food bank users in Ontario. Based on a sample of eight food banks, over 60 per cent of people who identified as having a disability had less than $100 left per month after paying for housing and utilities.

Advertisement

Article content

“Ontarians with a disability continue to be left behind,” Cheng said. “The financial support provided through the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) falls significantly below the poverty line.”

Meanwhile, assistance locally by Feeding Windsor, which for eight years has provided meals to those in need, have been slowed due to pandemic restrictions. Routine operations has been prevented for its lunch clubs or sit-down meals at church halls or local public housing apartment buildings, such as 920 Ouellette Ave and 2455 Rivard Ave.

Instead meals have been delivered door-to-door in those buildings or through take-out in a handful of locations across Windsor and Essex County, including the agency’s base location at New Song Church in the 900 block of Drouillard Road.

Advertisement

Article content

“We are serving about 350 to 450 meals a day,” said executive director Rodger Fordham. “We will have served about 100,000 meals this year. That is down from the 180,000 meals before the pandemic.

“But the need is greater than ever. The demand is amazing. It’s over the top, but we have been limited in what we can do. They have closed buildings down and limited them to people who live there. The need is there, we are just trying to fill it as best we can. Once (restrictions are eased) we will double in size.”

Roger Fordham prepares food at New Song Church, on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. According to Feed Ontario, demand for food banks has reached record levels across Ontario.
Roger Fordham prepares food at New Song Church, on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. According to Feed Ontario, demand for food banks has reached record levels across Ontario. Photo by Dax Melmer /Windsor Star

The pandemic not only created greater need among those with limited income suffering from “food insecurity” due to job loss, plus addiction or mental health issues, but also among post-secondary students who may be from another country or previously got by with part-time jobs in the hospitality industry which have disappeared due to COVID-19.

Advertisement

Article content

Fordham hopes to soon make meals available for university students inside the hall at Assumption Church.

“The same needs we had before the pandemic still exist, but now as the benefits and stimulus programs go away, everything is changing,” he said. “You still have so many people not going back into the workforce.

“The pandemic has shined a light on people who are marginalized. What’s going to be interesting going forward is to see how much someone is willing to take off their plate to help someone who doesn’t have anything on their plate.”

To learn more or donate to Feeding Windsor visit online at feedingwindsoressex.ca or call 519-560-7311. For more information about area food banks or inquire about UHC’s services, call 519-944-4900 or visit online at uhc.ca .

[email protected]

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

File source

Tags
Show More

Related Articles

Back to top button
Close