Report: Growing number of Ontarians struggle without winter coats, nutritious
food, & health care

First ever provincial food bank client survey reveals the harsh reality of living in poverty

TORONTO, Dec. 1 /CNW/ - A new report released today by the Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB) highlights the growing breadth and depth of hunger in Ontario. The Ontario Hunger Report provides a snapshot of community food bank usage since last fall, as well as detailed data on living conditions from the first ever provincial food bank client household survey.

"Although it has been reported that we are at the technical end of the recession, the situation is very different for hundreds of thousands of individuals and families living on the edge," says report author Adam Spence, Executive Director of the Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB). "Over the past year, many Ontarians have experienced job losses or reductions in their hours at work, and have struggled with inadequate and inaccessible government supports."

Highlights of the report's findings include:

    
    -  over 375,000 Ontarians turn to food banks every month; an increase of
       19 per cent over fall 2008 figures. Many of those served are very
       young: 35.9 per cent are 16 years of age or younger.
    -  one third (32 per cent) of persons heading households using food banks
       in Ontario are employed part-time or full-time or were employed in the
       last six months.
    -  thirty-three (33) per cent of Ontarians turning to food banks are
       recent immigrants, living in Canada for four years or less. Fifty four
       (54) per cent of new Canadians turning to food banks have a post-
       secondary degree or diploma.
    -  in more than half (51.1 per cent) of households turning to food banks,
       at least one member has gone without necessary health care including
       vision care, dental care, medical care, or pharma-care because of the
       cost.
    -  a very high proportion of members of households turning to food banks
       (72.4 per cent) do not eat the required servings of fruits and
       vegetables.
    -  in 53 per cent of households with children turning to food banks, at
       least one member does not have a warm winter coat.
    

"The breadth and depth of hunger in Ontario is staggering," said Spence. "Tens of thousands more have turned to us for support this year, and it is clear that many more cannot afford the very basics, like fruits and vegetables, winter coats, or necessary health care."

The report calls on the provincial government to:

    
    -  revise regressive rules around social assistance including increasing
       highly restrictive asset limits for applicants;
    -  follow through on its commitment to a comprehensive review of social
       assistance and its commitment to introduce a dental benefit program
       for low-income families;
    -  introduce a new Ontario Housing Benefit for all low-income Ontarians
       to fill the gap between income and cost of living;
    -  increase the availability of public and affordable housing through
       innovative financing including direct investment, regulatory
       requirements, and housing bonds; and
    -  create a farm donation tax credit for Ontario processors and producers
       who support local food banks.
    

The report also calls on the federal government to expand eligibility and increase benefit levels for Employment Insurance (EI) and develop and implement a national poverty reduction strategy that commits to a 50 per cent reduction in poverty in Canada by 2020.

"The public responsibility to act is necessary, now more than ever before," said Spence. "Food banks and the hundreds of thousands of neighbours we serve anxiously await our governments' response."

A full copy of the report can be found at www.oafb.ca.

SOURCE Ontario Association of Food Banks

For further information: For further information: For interviews please contact: Adam Spence, Executive Director, OAFB, Work: (416) 656-4100, Mobile: (416) 543-0897

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Ontario Association of Food Banks

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