Most business owners would be thrilled if a customer walked through their door every 10 seconds. Unfortunately, an increase in customers isn’t always good news. As Ontario recognizes Hunger Action Month this September, a growing number of first-time visitors seeking help from the province’s food banks and hunger-relief organizations offers a canary-in-the-coal-mine warning of greater danger ahead. Ontario residents are struggling to do more with less, resulting in the province’s food banks experiencing a 64% increase in first-time visitors since 2019. A 47% increase in the number of employed Ontarians accessing food banks suggests that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stretch one’s pay cheque to cover the basics of living in this province.
When initially introduced nearly four decades ago, food banks were a temporary measure to address gaps in the social safety net while the government developed better long-term solutions. With food bank use increasing for the sixth year in a row, Ontario’s food banks and hunger-relief organizations have never been more eager to put themselves out of business. Eliminating the need for food banks altogether, however, is directly linked to making the end of poverty a priority for the province. That process starts with taking a long, hard look at the difficult truths Ontario is facing today.
Hard Truths of Hunger in Ontario
#1: Food Insecurity Is Hurting Our Kids
Last year, one in three visitors to Ontario food banks was under the age of 18. Studies have shown that childhood hunger can lead to negative academic and health outcomes, including impaired learning, decreased productivity, and a higher risk of mental health challenges and chronic conditions like asthma. Studies have also shown that the impact of childhood hunger can create a ripple effect that ultimately makes it more difficult for children who grow up in poverty to escape poverty as adults. Learn more.
#2: Our Seniors Are Struggling
Between a decline in employer pension programs, barriers to accumulating personal savings, and the widening gap between government pension program income and the rising cost of living, more seniors are falling into poverty. As a result, Ontario senior citizens are twice as likely to need the long-term assistance of a food bank. Learn more.
#3: There Are Devastating Disadvantages To Living With A Disability
In Ontario, those living with a disability are nearly three times more likely to live in poverty than those without. Disability-related benefits are the primary source of income for one in three people who use Ontario food banks. Learn more.
#4: Rising Housing Costs Cut Into Other Areas
After paying their monthly housing costs, two in three Ontario food bank visitors have less than $100 left to cover other expenses, like food, transportation, and medication. Surveys of food bank clients found that one in five people skipped meals to pay their rent. Learn more.
From Hard Truths To Lasting Change
As Ontarians look for impactful ways to help those struggling with food insecurity during Hunger Action Month, small actions made by many can help inspire the critical momentum that fuels long-term change. These actions include:
Taking Steps Toward Education
With over 1,200 Ontario food banks and hunger-relief organizations in its member network, Feed Ontario has its finger on the pulse of Ontario’s food insecurity situation. Learning from the many resources available on the Feed Ontario website and signing up to receive email communications are two easy ways to stay informed about what’s happening around hunger in Ontario.
Supporting Advocacy Efforts
In addition to educating ourselves about hunger and poverty in Ontario, it’s never been more important to encourage awareness and dialogue about these issues with community decisions makers. Feed Ontario has several easy-to-use tools to help share information, inspire conversations, and show support for policy change, including:
- A ‘Hunger In My Riding’ calculator that generates a custom report about community-specific food bank use and poverty that can be easily downloaded and shared with the appropriate Member of Provincial Parliament
- A one-click email tool to generate a pre-written or personalized postcard and help communicate the negative impact that social assistance clawbacks are having on Ontarians to local MPPs
Donating Food, Time, and Money
With a 42% increase in food bank visits since before the pandemic, Ontario’s food banks and hunger relief agencies desperately need goods, funds, and volunteer support. A direct donation to Feed Ontario is an excellent option for those wanting to stretch the impact of their hunger-relief support. Thanks to a vast partner network, bulk purchasing power, and innovative community initiatives, Feed Ontario is able to stretch every one dollar donated to provide two meals to someone in need.
Feed Ontario’s Find-a-Food Bank tool makes it easy to support a specific Feed Ontario food bank or hunger-relief organization with a donation of food, time, or money. A helpful fundraising toolkit is also available for those who choose to mark Hunger Action Month or other notable occasion with a personal or team fundraiser.
What efforts are you making to help Ontario address poverty and ultimately eliminate the need for food banks in our province? Help us continue this important conversation by tagging @FeedOntario in your Facebook, Instagram, and X posts.