Sudbury

Sudbury food banks fill the gaps left after social assistance funds run out

Some charitable agencies in Sudbury are seeing an increase in the number of clients who are in dire need of food.

Social Planning Council says social assistance formula does not account for cost of living

Bradley Parker has been coming to Inner City Homes in Sudbury for more than five years. He uses their food bank services and counselling services. (Angela Gemmill/CBC)

Some charitable agencies in Sudbury are seeing an increase in the number of clients who are in dire need of food.

Most food banks allow for one visit per month. After that option is exhausted, those who need food can seek out emergency services from agencies like the Social Planning Council.

Executive director Joseph Leblanc says he believes this increase in emergency need is because those on social assistance don't have enough money to cover all their basic needs.

He calls this income insecurity.

"Disconnection from hydro or eviction from rent arrears, food and medicines tend to fall secondary to keeping a roof over your head or heat for your children."

The council provides emergency food vouchers to those who have already exhausted their one monthly trip to a food bank.

"The applications we see are from individuals who are trying the best they can with the limited resources that they receive on disability support or on social assistance," Leblanc told CBC News.

"But realistically we know the cost of living far exceeds that."
    
Leblanc says he believes one remedy would be to tie the formula used to calculate social assistance to the cost of living in a particular community, he says.

According to a few local charities, more and more people in Sudbury are being forced to make these decisions of what gets paid first: the rent, the heat or groceries. That in turn puts pressure on social service agencies, like food banks, to provide emergency help. (Mark Squibb/CBC)

'Really helps you out'

Bradley Parker has been coming to Inner City Homes in Sudbury for the last five years.

At first, he came for counselling for his anger management, but now he returns to volunteer and use their food bank services.

The 26-year-old lives in a shelter with his dog and cat. He has been on Ontario Works benefits for seven years.

When he gets his monthly allowance he pays for his housing needs and food for his pets. There isn't much left after that.

That's when he relies on the services at Inner City Homes.

"They give you the necessities, like toilet paper, shampoo and stuff like that. It just really helps you out through the month," Parker said.

Inner City Home executive director Mary Ali (right) with volunteer Pam Tobin, says many of their clients come around the middle of the month to use food bank services. That's because money from social assistance has already been used for other basic needs. (Angela Gemmill/CBC)

Feeding the need

According to a few local charities, more and more people in Sudbury are being forced to make these decisions of what gets paid first: the rent, the heat or groceries.

That in turn puts pressure on social service agencies, like food banks, to provide emergency help.

Inner City Homes spokesperson Mary Ali says many of their clients are on monthly social assistance.

"Then usually by the seventh, eighth, tenth of the month, the money is gone," she said.

"So people who have to use the food bank are going to start to come in."

As for Parker, he says he is working to improve his life by finishing up his high school diploma.

And he has aspirations to open up his own bakery.

"I'm on the right track now."

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