Kitchener-Waterloo

People with jobs increasingly in need of food bank services, report says

More than 70 per cent of people who have accessed a food bank in Ontario in the past year get their income from social assistance or a government benefit such as employment insurance, a new report says.

Feed Ontario report finds 70 per cent of food bank users on some form of assistance

Wendi Campbell is the CEO of The Food Bank of Waterloo Region. She says the region is seeing people who have jobs also coming into the food bank, which is something the Feed Ontario Hunger Report says is a growing trend. (Submitted by Jennifer Judges/Food Bank of Waterloo Region)

More than 70 per cent of people who have accessed a food bank in Ontario in the past year get their income from social assistance or a government benefit such as employment insurance, a new report says.

But there's also a new trend emerging, one that sees people who are working full or part-time jobs in need of food.

The Hunger Report from Feed Ontario looks at food bank use between April 1, 2018 and March 31, 2019. It reports 510,438 people used a food bank, and there were more than 3 million visits.

That's a 1.8 per cent increase from the previous year.

Of the people who required help, one third were children.

The report notes over the last three years, food banks have seen more people who are employed seeing help.

This could be due to a rise in precarious and temporary employment, changes to labour laws, and insufficient support from Ontario's worker support programs.

Feed Ontario says it's calling on all levels of government to come together to find a way to end poverty and hunger.

"There has never been a greater need for collective action than there is today," the report says.

Local strength in social services

Locally, The Food Bank of Waterloo Region hasn't seen an increase in people using the food bank, but CEO Wendi Campbell says the numbers locally have remained steady.

"Some of the sort of core issues that the Ontario report is focusing on around the changing labour market, changing labour laws, the changing social safety net, are all things that are really relevant even here in Waterloo region," Campbell said.

She says it's important for the local food bank to work with groups such as Feed Ontario to have a larger provincial conversation about the need that's been seen.

"If it wasn't for the strength of our social services in our community there'd be some bigger problems.," Campbell said.

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