A near-record number of Ontarians are using food banks, according to a new report.
The Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB) says that 375,789 people made use of a food bank in the province this March – more than one-third of whom were children.
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That’s more than nine-tenths of the number that used food banks in the previous March, when a record high of 412,998 was recorded.
Nearly half of the families (46.1 per cent) making use of Ontario food banks have children at home. A similar proportion of those relying on food banks (43.6 per cent) are single people, while the remainder of families using food banks (10.3 per cent) are couples without children.
Food banks in the province also served more than 1.2 million meals to Ontarians during the month of March, which is part of an ongoing trend in which food banks have expanded the services they offer to meet the needs of clients.
"As a province with so much, there is no reason that any child should have to go to bed hungry," Bill Laidlaw, the OAFB executive director, said in a statement accompanying the release of the 2013 Hunger Report.
"To meet these growing needs, food banks are now having to do so much more than provide emergency support. They are becoming hubs for social innovation, health and child care support, learning and training opportunities, and community development that stretch far beyond the traditional idea of a food bank."
Case in point, at the Eden Community Food Bank in Mississauga, Ont., the organization helps teach people how to make good, nutritious food and its volunteers prepare meals for families.
Peter Costello, the director of operations at the food bank’s community learning kitchen, said the hope is that his colleagues can give families the tools they need to prepare healthy but budget-friendly food at home.