Ontario's food banks report alarming increase this fall

    Food banks call on neighbours and governments to act as rising prices
    and tough economic times force more Ontarians to turn to food banks

    TORONTO, Dec. 2 /CNW/ - A new report released today by the Ontario
Association of Food Banks (OAFB) revealed that there has been an alarming
increase in the number of persons turning to food banks in Ontario since last
fall. Between September 2007 and September 2008, food banks in Ontario have
reported an average increase of 13 per cent in the number of neighbours
turning to them for support.
    "We are now at the leading edge of a very turbulent storm," said Judy
Dancause, Chair of the OAFB and Executive Director of the Agape Centre in
Cornwall, Ontario. "Given that we already serve over 300,000 Ontarians every
month, this increase means that tens of thousands of more Ontarians have been
forced to turn to food banks in the past year alone."
    Seventy nine per cent of food banks in Ontario reported an increase in
the number of persons turning to them for support since last fall. Although
many major centres have witnessed significant growth in demand, the greatest
increases have been seen in mid-sized communities that have been hit hard by
job losses. Food banks in communities including Orillia, Lindsay, Cornwall,
Sudbury, Thunder Bay, St. Thomas, Stratford, Oshawa, and London have seen
their figures spike between 12 and 41 per cent in the last twelve months. If
the current trend continues, it is projected that 350,000 Ontarians will be
turning to food banks every month in 2009; an all time high for food bank
usage in the province.
    "It is in tough economic times that food banks first emerged and saw
their greatest growth," said Adam Spence, Executive Director of the OAFB.
"This snapshot provides the first evidence that this period of economic
decline may be very difficult for Ontario's families and Ontario's food
    Beyond job losses and overall economic decline, the price of basics like
food, energy, and water has risen substantially in the past year, further
compounding the pressures that have forced more Ontarians to turn to food
banks. The price of key food items including pasta, bread, baby food, milk,
and chicken have all increased at greater than twice the rate of inflation in
the past twelve months. In addition, the average cost for natural gas
increased by 31 per cent, and the price of water for household consumption
rose by 16 per cent. The cumulative effect of these increases is very
significant. Since last fall, an average single person would have seen their
grocery and utility bills increase by $433, and household bills for a family
of three would have gone up by over $800.
    Many of Ontario's food banks are struggling to meet demand. One in five
locations does not have enough food to meet the needs of those they serve.
Communities have also surpassed the threshold by which neighbours provide
enough food donations to support their local food bank: twenty one per cent of
food banks in Ontario must purchase over 40 per cent of their food supply in
order to provide for their neighbours in their community.
    Given these troubling trends, the Ontario Association of Food Banks is
calling on:

    -  neighbours to support their local food banks this holiday season;
    -  the provincial government to follow through on its commitment to a
       comprehensive poverty reduction strategy that includes targets and
       timelines and long-term policy commitments focusing on housing and
       community supports, economic security and opportunity, and public
       responsibility for poverty reduction; and
    -  the federal government to expand eligibility and benefits for
       Employment Insurance (EI).

    "We will need the support of both our governments and our neighbours
during this difficult period," said Dancause. "All Ontarians must make a
choice to help reduce hunger and poverty in our province."
    The Ontario Hunger Report is a compilation of data collected through the
annual HungerCount survey of Food Banks Canada, a special fall survey of
Ontario's food banks, the annual OAFB member survey, and Statistics Canada
datasets. It is available online at www.oafb.ca.

For further information:

For further information: Judy Dancause, Chair, OAFB and Executive
Director, Agape Centre Cornwall, Work: (613) 938-9297, Mobile: (613) 361-0332;
Adam Spence, Executive Director, OAFB, Work: (416) 656-4100, Mobile: (416)

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Ontario Association of Food Banks

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