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Feed Ontario’s hunger report details record demand at food banks

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Feed Ontario’s Hunger Report details record demand at foodbanks
Partner's in Mission Foodbank has helped 7,400 people over the last year and spent over $550,000 purchasing groceries. – Dec 5, 2023

An Ontario hunger report paints a picture of increased food bank use in the province.

‘Why Ontarians Can’t Get Ahead,’ compiled by Feed Ontario and released late last month, said food banks continue to be stretched to the limit to meet the demand.

“Last year we saw over 800,000 people visiting a food bank in Ontario,” says Ashley Quan, Feed Ontario’s manager of research and government relations.

“That was a 38 per cent increase over the previous year.”

The numbers aren’t quite as dramatic at the Partners in Mission Foodbank in Kingston, but the increase is still stark compared with the past.

“We’ve gone from one in 21.6 people needing a food bank to one in 18.4 needing a food bank,” executive director Dan Irwin said.

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“So even though Kingston is considered a fairly stable economy, there’s still a lot of need here.”

That translates to between 85 and 100 food hampers distributed by the food bank every day of operation.

While demand has increased, the pool of people able to donate to the food bank is shrinking.

“We’ve been seeing fewer donations from those who are giving us a little bit, because they now need that,” Irwin says.

“Our donor base has needed to rely on those who have higher incomes just to be able to make that up.”

Elsewhere in the province, Quan says 70 per cent of food banks in their survey expressed concern about being able to meet current food needs.

“It’s a very small amount, but around 4 per cent are even considering whether they’ll have to close their doors,” she says.

“There’s been some talk of reducing services, reducing the amount of food they can give out.”

The trend is worrying to other charitable organizations like St. Vincent de Paul, where they’ve seen a 66 per cent increase in people using their food pantry this year.

“Our emergency food pantry offers a couple of days’ worth of food, we’re here to kind of close that gap,” St. Vincent de Paul executive director Judy Fyfe says.

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Martha’s Table is now serving 6,000 meals a month, which is 2,000 more than last year.

“I think our numbers would definitely soar if the food banks were not able to meet the need,” says Patti Ridlon, operations manager at Martha’s Table.

So far, Partners in Mission Foodbank has been able to meet the increased demand, but its costs are going up and donations are harder to come by.

It’s hard to say just how much longer the service can bear the pressure if the current trends continue.

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