New Report Reveals Almost 500,000 Ontarians Needed a Food Bank Last Year Due to Rising Cost of Housing and Insufficient Social Assistance Rates

499,415 adults and children needed a food bank last year; 90 per cent rental or social housing tenants

Toronto, Ontario, CANADA


TORONTO, Nov. 27, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB) released its 2017 Hunger Report today which reveals that 499,415 individuals – one third of them children – turned to a food bank last year alone. The report also found that over 90 per cent of food bank clients are rental or social housing tenants who are spending more than 70 per cent of their income on housing. The 2017 Hunger Report highlights the federal government’s recently announced housing strategy and how the OAFB hopes it will affect those accessing food banks over the next ten years.

“For food bank clients, housing is often the largest and most challenging expense they face each month,” says Carolyn Stewart, Executive Director of the Ontario Association of Food Banks. “The OAFB was pleased to see a number of the investments outlined in the National Housing Strategy and is hopeful that it will start to move the needle on poverty over the next ten years. In the meantime, however, there is a very real and immediate need to assist low-income Ontarians struggling to make ends meet.”

According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, for housing to be considered affordable it should require no more than 30 per cent of a household’s before-tax income. Food bank clients, however, spend on average more than 70 per cent of their income on rent or housing, leaving very little for other necessities like heat, hydro, transportation, medicine, and food.

“Provincially, more than 45 per cent of food bank clients – or 224,736 people – have less than $100 left each month after paying basic expenses,” says Stewart. “This leaves them with just over $3 per day for all other needs. With this in mind, it is no wonder that almost half a million adults, children, and seniors are turning to food banks each year.”

The report shows that while the need for affordable housing is currently affecting many Ontarians, individuals that work for minimum or low wages, live with a disability, or receive social assistance experience this need the most severely. The 2017 Hunger Report revealed that in eight out of 10 sample communities across the province, the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment would require more than 100 per cent of the income received by an individual on Ontario Works.

“Between 2005 and 2015, the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment increased 25 per cent in Ontario, but support provided through the Ontario Disability Support Program, for example, only increased 15 per cent,” says Stewart. “With 68 per cent of food bank clients citing social assistance as their primary source of income, this is creating an unsustainable situation for hundreds of thousands of Ontarians.”

The 2017 Hunger Report recognizes the federal government’s recently announced housing strategy, which includes investments in affordable housing and a new housing benefit for low-income Canadians. Provincially, the Ontario Association of Food Banks is calling for the Government of Ontario to implement policies that address the root causes of hunger, as detailed in the recently released “Income Security: A Roadmap for Change” report. The recommendations in this report include large increases to social assistance rates, transforming the system to ensure that it is less punitive, and the implementation of an Ontario Housing Benefit.  

“An immediate investment into improved social assistance rates will go a long way in helping to ensure that families, adults, and seniors are able to afford housing, food, and basic expenses today,” says Stewart. “In the meantime, however, food banks will continue to provide a wide range of programs to help those in need.”

The 2017 Hunger Report highlights the role that food banks play in addition to emergency food support. Food banks provide a myriad of programs and services for low-income individuals and families, such as child care, resume writing workshops, training and apprenticeship programs, and health clinics.  One food bank featured in the report is the Grimsby Benevolent Fund, which is currently providing 50 households with a monthly rental supplement through its Rental Assistance Program.

“Without secure, affordable housing or access to healthy food, families and individuals cannot survive on a month-to-month basis,” says Stacy Elia, Executive Director of the Grimsby Benevolent Fund in Grimsby, Ontario. “By offering housing support alongside healthy, nutritional choices, including fresh fruit and vegetables, bread, and dairy products, we are able to contribute to increasing the quality of life in our community.”

2017 Hunger Report Highlights and Trends

  • Hunger by the Numbers
    • 499,415 people accessed food banks in Ontario between April 1st, 2016 and March 1st, 2017, with 33 per cent (or 166,703) being children
    • 50 per cent of food bank clients visited three times or less over the course of a year
    • 50 per cent of households served by food banks identified as single person households
  •  Affordable Housing and Insufficient Social Assistance Rates
    • 90 per cent of food bank clients are either rental or social housing tenants
    • 68 per cent of clients cite social or income assistance as their primary source of income
    • Ontario Works provides individuals with $721 per month, Ontario Disability Support Program provides $1,151 per month. In a sample of ten cities, the average one-bedroom apartment would require between 70 to over 100 per cent of this monthly income.
    • 45 per cent of food bank clients (224,736) have less than $100 left each month after basic expenses have been paid
    • 171,000 households are currently on Ontario’s affordable housing wait list, with 32 per cent being seniors. The wait time is approximately four years.
    • The Ontario Association of Food Banks recommends an immediate increase to Ontario’s current social assistance programs alongside investments in affordable housing
  • How Food Banks Help Beyond Food
    • Food banks offer fresh, healthy food and a diverse range of programs, depending on the community. In Ontario, these programs include rental and housing supplements, emergency payments in the event of an eviction notice, budgeting support, child care, resume writing workshops, training and apprenticeship programs, and health clinics.

To download a full copy of the 2017 Hunger Report, or to find out more about food banks in Ontario and how you can provide support, visit: www.oafb.ca/hunger-report

About Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB)

The Ontario Association of Food Banks is the province’s leading provider of emergency food support to frontline hunger-relief agencies and the leader in province-wide hunger research. Our mission is to strengthen communities by providing food banks with food, resources, and solutions that address both short and long-term food insecurity. For every $1 donated, the Ontario Association of Food Banks can provide the equivalent of 3 meals to someone in need.

For more information, please contact:

Amanda King | Ontario Association of Food Banks | amanda@oafb.ca | 416-656-4100