Ontario faces a gathering storm of price increases & tough economic times



    Food banks warn of impact of rising price of food, gasoline, and energy
    and projected economic slowdown

    TORONTO, June 26 /CNW/ - A new report released today at Queen's Park by
the Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB) revealed that the alarming rise
in food, gasoline, and energy prices are beginning to affect low-income
families and food banks across the province. The report was the result of a
study of food prices since 1995, a retail survey of First Nations communities,
and a survey of food banks across the province.
    "The results are startling," said Adam Spence, Executive Director of the
OAFB. "The cost of essentials items from groceries to gas are all increasing
at a rate that could further reduce many Ontarian's ability to pay rent and
put food on the table."
    Since November 2007, the retail price of the majority of tracked food
items in Canada, including baby food, chicken, milk and bread, has increased
by greater than four per cent, or double the rate of inflation. Over the past
decade, the price of healthier foods like eggs have increased at a rate much
greater than inflation, whereas less healthy foods like fruit-flavoured
crystals have increased at a much slower rate. Beyond food, the price of
gasoline has risen by an average of 62 per cent in major Ontario centres since
2003. This has resulted in an annual spending increase on gasoline that it is
equal one month's rent for a one bedroom apartment. An expected increase to
natural gas prices in July will result in Ontarians spending an additional
$265 per year to heat their homes. Many households, from the suburbs of
Southern Ontario to remote reserve communities in the North, are feeling the
effects of rising prices.
    "We are already at the front line of high prices for groceries, gasoline
and energy," said Glen Fiddler, Traditions and Culture Coordinator in Sandy
Lake First Nation. "Reserve communities facing issues of hunger and poverty
also have to face the reality of food costs that are almost double the
Canadian average."
    Rising prices of food, gas, and energy are compounded by a troubling
economic picture. Ontario is projected to have the lowest economic growth of
all provinces, and unemployment is expected to grow by 0.6 per cent. This
could put up to 45,000 Ontarians out of work by the end of 2009. Manufacturing
jobs are being lost on a daily basis, including important food manufacturers,
such as Cangro in Niagara Falls, that have supported Ontario communities for
decades.
    "We see the face of Ontario's economic and social trends in our food bank
every day," said "In Niagara Falls, we face the challenge of losing a major
food donor and a major employer for our region. Alongside tough economic times
and rising prices, we are worried about what will come in the next year."
    Seventy-two per cent of food banks in Ontario are worried that the
increasing price of food will impact their ability to meet the needs of their
clients. Many are already spending more on food purchases compared to last
year. Two-thirds of Ontario's food banks are spending more money for the same
amount of food in 2008. The vast majority of food banks (89 per cent) are also
reporting an increase in the number of persons requiring support because of
rising prices.

    
    In today's report, the OAFB is also calling on the provincial and federal
governments to act. The OAFB makes the following initial recommendations:
    -   The federal government must lower eligibility requirements for
        Employment Insurance (EI) to ensure more Ontarians access this vital
        program;
    -   The provincial government should reinstate the Back to School
        Allowance this fall; and
    -   The provincial government must quickly move to implement the poverty
        reduction strategy. In its development, the provincial government
        should consider implementing a low-income inflation index that would
        direct future social assistance increases, as well as a coordinated
        low-income energy strategy with significant supports and demand
        reduction initiatives.
    

    The OAFB will be releasing its comprehensive recommendations to the
provincial government's Cabinet Committee on Poverty Reduction at the end of
July in order to fully address the issues outlined in today's report release
as well as other issues related to hunger and poverty in Ontario.
    "We will need the support of our provincial government, our federal
government, and our neighbours over the next year." said Spence. "Without
their full support, we will not be able to weather the coming storm, and any
social and economic progress for low-income Ontarians that has been built over
the past decade may be washed away."

    The Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB) is a network of over
100 food banks across the province from Ottawa to Windsor, and Niagara Falls
to Thunder Bay. 320,000 Ontarians are served by food banks every month. If you
would like to find out more about food banks in Ontario, or for a full copy of
the report, please visit www.oafb.ca.

    Photographs are also available upon request.





For further information:

For further information: Adam Spence, Executive Director, OAFB (Primary
Contact), Work: (416) 656-4100, Cell: (416) 543-0897; Diane Corkum, Assistant
Executive Director, Project SHARE (Niagara Falls), Work: (905) 357-5121, x.
22; Hans Schmidt, Client, Welcome Inn Community Centre (Hamilton), Tel: (289)
244-1206; Glen Fiddler, Traditions and Culture Coordinator, Sandy Lake First
Nation, Tel: (807) 774-3421

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Ontario Association of Food Banks

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