Why Ontarians Can't Get Ahead

Food bank use is at crisis levels in our province. Ontarians are struggling to get ahead, and food banks are struggling to keep up with demand.

Food bank use in Ontario has reached a crisis level.

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people used a food bank in Ontario between April 1, 2022 and March 31, 2023.

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increase in unique individuals over last year, the highest single-year increase ever reported, and double the increase seen after the 2008 recession.

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visits were made last year, an increase of 36% over the previous year and 101% over pre-pandemic numbers.

"To be emotionally calm, so that I can give my daughter peace of mind and not feel the fear that I feel when I don’t have enough money to cover all the expenses on time.”

– Survey Respondent

(answering “What is the biggest challenge of living in poverty?”)

Ontarians are struggling to get ahead

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Precarious employment, inadequate social safety nets and support programs, and an unaffordable cost of living are making it harder for Ontarians to get ahead.

1 in 6 food bank visitors are workers

Earnings have not increased as fast as expenses, making it harder for workers to make ends meet. Ontario has seen a rise in precarious employment, like gig work and contract positions.

The majority of food bank visitors rely on social assistance

Social assistance supports fall far below the poverty line and program rules make it harder to escape poverty. Ontario Works has been frozen since 2018.

Unaffordable housing is a problem everywhere

Income is not keeping up with the cost of living. High rental rates impact both small and large communities, and leave Ontarians with insufficient funds to cover their other expenses.

Food banks are struggling to keep up with demand

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Food banks are funded largely by community donations, not government support. As the need for emergency food support has continues to grow, food banks are finding themselves in progressively more precarious and unsustainable positions.

The capacity of food banks is not keeping up with the need for support.

Last year, one in four food banks experienced a 40 per cent or greater growth in unique visitors. This demand for charitable food support is becoming insurmountable and has started to exceed the capacity of food banks in many communities.

Food banks are an emergency service

The needs, resources, models, and capacity of the food bank network in Ontario are highly diverse.

Food banks were created to provide an emergency supply of food to those experiencing temporary hardship. They cannot fill the gaps created by poor public policy.

Across the board, food banks are funded almost exclusively by community donations, not government support.

We need immediate action

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We cannot continue to rely on the charitable sector to fill the gaps left by poor public policy decisions.

When governments balance their budgets by cutting services, and businesses produce more profits by relying more heavily on precarious workers, the basic needs that a strong social safety net and good jobs once fulfilled do not magically disappear. Instead, the burden shifts onto individuals and community-based organizations, like food banks, to try to do more with less.

Eventually, trying to do more with less becomes like trying to get blood out of a stone. Some food banks have indicated that they have been forced to reduce the amount of food they can provide due to high demand and a lack of resources.

This situation is worsening, and we are calling on all levels of government to take immediate and urgent action.

The following recommendations are first steps that can be taken by the Government of Ontario to turn the tide on this crisis:

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You can take action on hunger

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Spend a month in someone else's shoes

The 800,000+ people who visit food banks in Ontario each year must make difficult choices every day just to try and make ends meet.
Spend a month in someone else’s shoes and see where the road takes you.

Tell the Government of Ontario to reduce poverty

We cannot continue to rely on the charitable sector to fill the gaps left by poor public policy decisions. Join the call for action on poverty by using our tool to send a letter to your Member of Provincial Parliament.

Explore food bank use in your community

Our Hunger in My Riding tool allows you to generate custom reports that you can share with others on what hunger looks like in your community, including statistics on food bank use, housing, and social assistance.