Report: Food banks hit hard by recession, call for action this fall

    
    As donations decline and demand continues to rise, Ontario's food banks
    call on neighbours and governments for support
    

TORONTO, Oct. 8 /CNW/ - A special report released today by the Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB) highlighted the negative impact of the current economic downturn on families and food banks across the province. As hundreds of thousands of Ontarians lose their jobs, food prices continue to rise, and more Ontarians turn to food banks, many organizations are also being hit by declining donations. The report comes days before the Thanksgiving weekend, a crucial period when many food banks look to fill their shelves through community food drives.

"The results are of serious concern to us," said Adam Spence, Executive Director of the OAFB. "Ontario's food banks are under tremendous pressure due to growing unemployment, continually increasing food prices, and rising demand. The need for food bank services is skyrocketing at a time when many food banks are receiving fewer corporate and individual donations."

Some key results of the report, which was put together with data from a survey of Ontario's community food banks as well as Statistics Canada data on food prices and employment trends, include:

    
    -   Ontario has lost 227,700 full-time jobs since August 2008. As a
        result, ninety three (93) per cent of Ontario's food banks reported
        an increase in the number of clients who have recently lost a job.
    -   Over 350,000 neighbours turn to food banks every month in Ontario. On
        average, client numbers are up twenty (20) per cent over this time
        last year.
    -   The price of many items on the grocery lists of families across
        Ontario has increased by over ten (10) per cent since January 2008,
        including: milk, peanut butter, pasta, flour, canned soup, baby food,
        and potatoes.
    -   One in three food banks in Ontario reported that their ability to
        meet the needs of their clients has decreased in 2009.
    -   Average monthly expenditures on food by Ontario's food banks have
        increased by eighty-four (84) per cent compared to 2008.
        Fifty-four (54) per cent of food banks will be over projections on
        food purchases in 2009.
    -   One in four food banks has been forced to reduce their average hamper
        sizes in order to better share the available supply of food.
    

In response to these trends, Ontario's food banks are issuing a call to action for both neighbours and governments to meet the immediate need of hunger and to provide support to Ontarians struggling during the downturn. This fall, Ontarians are asked to give generously through food drives at their local grocery stores, schools, businesses, and places of worship.

In addition, the OAFB is also calling on the provincial and federal governments to act. The report calls for the provincial government to:

    
    -   create an Ontario Producer and Processor Donation Tax Credit in order
        to provide an incentive for food donations by local farmers and
        processors; and
    -   remove barriers to accessing social assistance by measures such as
        increasing restrictive asset limits and allowing Ontarians to collect
        OSAP and social assistance at the same time.
    

The OAFB also calls on the federal government to increase the accessibility and adequacy of EI benefits by decreasing eligibility requirements for Ontarians to be in line with other provinces and by increasing benefit levels.

"We need the support of our neighbours and governments to manage through a very difficult period," said Spence. "Many individuals and families are struggling with the downturn, and they need our collective support."

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. 350,000 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.

SOURCE Ontario Association of Food Banks

For further information: For further information: Adam Spence, Executive Director, OAFB, Work: (416) 656-4100, x.2931, Mobile: (416) 543-0897, Email: adam@oafb.ca

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Ontario Association of Food Banks

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