The 2023 Hunger Report provides analysis of the data gathered by the Ontario food bank network between April 1st, 2022, and March 31st, 2023.
This year’s report includes an in-depth look at the drivers of food bank use as Ontario experiences record-breaking increases in food bank use. The report presents food bank use data from the past year and discusses how food banks are on the brink of not being able to meet the need in their community.
Food bank use data
- Food bank use remains at an all-time high with this year marking the seventh consecutive year of food bank use increases.
- 800,822 adults and children accessed a food bank in Ontario between April 1, 2022, and March 31, 2023 – an increase of 38% over last year and 60% over pre-pandemic levels.
- Ontario’s food banks were visited 5,888,685 times throughout the year, an increase of 36% over last year and 101% over pre-pandemic levels.
Drivers of food bank use
While the rising cost of living and high inflation rates contributed to escalating food bank use, the core drivers are longstanding income insecurity issues that are being driven by poor public policies.
Inadequate employment and income earning opportunities make it difficult for Ontarians to get ahead.
- More than 1 in 6 food bank visitors cited employment as their primary source of income, an 82% increase over 2016-17 and a 37% increase over the previous year.
- People working a contract or seasonal position are four times more likely to rely on a food bank and those working part-time jobs are three times more likely.
Insufficient and inadequate social support programs legislate people into poverty.
- Social assistance remains the primary source of income for the majority of food bank visitors with 26% relying on OW and 28% relying on ODSP.
- The number of people relying on ODSP and OW has increased 17% over the previous year.
Housing and Cost of Living
High housing and living costs make it difficult for Ontarians to afford other essential expenses.
- 71% of food bank survey respondents acknowledged their circumstances are worse or much worse than prior to the pandemic, attributing their circumstances to the rising cost of living including housing, food, transportation, and other essentials.
- 22% of food bank visitors have housing costs that exceed their monthly income.
- 34% of food bank survey respondents rarely or never have someone to depend on when they need it.
Trends in food banking
- 1 in 19 Ontarians relied on a food bank, a 41% increase over 2019-2020.
- 2 in 5 people visiting a food bank are doing so for the first time, a 41% increase over the previous year.
- Those relying on a food bank who visited 1-3 times a year decreased by 6% while those who visited 13 or more times per year increased by 38%.
- 1 in 4 food banks experienced a growth of 40% or greater in unique visitors.
Food Bank Service Models
- 84% of food banks provide programming and services beyond emergency food support including income tax preparation, community kitchens, thrift stores, emergency shelters or rent support, public health services, community referrals, and more.
- 23% of food banks in the Feed Ontario network are volunteer run and nearly 80% have five or fewer paid staff.
- 1 in 7 food banks purchased more than 20% of the food they distribute to visitors.
- 1 in 3 food banks have increased the volume of food purchasing by 90% or more over the last three years.
Food Bank Sustainability
- 69% of food banks are concerned about not having enough food and 53% indicate they are worried they do not have enough funding to adequately meet demand in their community.
- With demand exceeding capacity and resource limitations, 24% of food banks are concerned they will need to pause or reduce service.
- 4% of food banks are worried they may need to close their food bank completely within the next six months due to insufficient resources.
End the Need for Food Banks
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. This situation is worsening, and we are calling on all levels of government to take immediate and urgent action.