Feed Ontario has released its hunger report for 2018 and the numbers for Hamilton are alarming.
The report from the agency formerly known as the Ontario Association of Food Banks found that 12,300 people in the riding of Hamilton Centre used food banks last year, which works out to about 12 per cent of people in that area.
Ottawa-Vanier topped the list with 15 per cent of its population using food banks.
Joanne Santucci, executive director of Hamilton Food Share, said it’s not a list she wants Hamilton to be on.
“It’s really an income problem,” Santucci said on Global News Radio 900 CHML’s Bill Kelly Show. “People have incomes that are so dire, that are so below the poverty line, they can’t even make their rent, never mind rent and utilities.”
She said there are about 22,000 visits to Hamilton’s Emergency Food Network each month and that the issue of hunger in Hamilton appears to be getting progressively worse.
“We have found that over the last two or three years, it’s actually deepened. That people who would come to a food bank once might need to come to more than once now.”
Feed Ontario’s report found that 33 per cent of food bank users in Ontario are children. That percentage was the same in Hamilton Centre — of the 12,300 people who accessed food banks last year, 4,103 of those were children.
“When children start lining up at the food bank and not skipping rope out front of their house during the summer, that’s a problem,” said Santucci. “And that’s an indicator. The next looming concern that we’re going to have to talk about is seniors as well.”
According to the report, 25 per cent of Ontario seniors were using food banks more than 12 times a year, compared to only 13 percent of those under 65 years of age.
Santucci said the basic income pilot project, which was cancelled by the Ford government last year, would have been instrumental in helping people whose incomes are too low to enable them to pay for more than even the most basic necessities.
She said those who participated in the pilot project found that they were finally able to afford things as simple as a winter coat or new shoes for their children.
“These are just small little things that none of us even think of,” she said. “But they were the immense joy of someone now knowing that they could become independent of the very other systems that they’d had to access because they didn’t know whether they could stay in their apartment. They didn’t know whether they could feed themselves and pay that rent at the same time. Small little joys but oh my goodness, they’re the beginning pieces of changing lives.”
How other ridings in Hamilton compared to Hamilton Centre:
- Hamilton Mountain: 6,177 individuals visited a food bank.
- Hamilton West – Ancaster – Dundas: 3,181 individuals visited a food bank.
- Hamilton East – Stoney Creek: 3,922 individuals visited a food bank.