The agency that distributes close to 3.5 million pounds food every year to needy Hamiltonians says close to 5,000 different children make food bank visits each month.
Hamilton Food Share released its annual hunger report on Tuesday and says usage went up five per cent year over year, with an “alarming” 10 percent increase in the number of children lining up at the food bank.
The increase means children now make up 40 percent of those who use the service.
Of particular concern, according to Food Share Executive Director Joanne Santucci, is the snapshot of March 2019 which showed visits from children were up almost another 1,000 to just over 9,000, compared to the same time in 2018.
Meanwhile, overall numbers showed an increase of about 1,500 total visits year over year to around 23,000 in March 2019.
“I don’t know what else to say. When is the bottom? When is it going to hit bottom? At what point is the bottom for this provincial government?” Santucci told Global News, “I can just tell you that poverty is not widening here in our community. It’s deepening.”
The agency believes the “primary driver” of food bank use is lack of affordable housing.
Drawing from Canada Mortgage and Housing data, the report says those who access a food bank on average spend more than 50 per cent of their income on housing which puts them at “extreme risk of homelessness.”
Food share says over 2,000 households, or just over 4,000 people, are paying 50 per cent or more of their household income on their rent and utilities. Of those, about 400 people are paying 100 per cent or more of their total income on rent and utilities.
But Santucci stresses that the real problem is the number of visits Hamilton Food Share is dealing with. The agency says each visit delivers the equivalent of three to five days worth of food, with close to 5,000 people accessing the service more than once per month.
“The alarm is families who have children are coming more often to the food bank, which means that their meager income that they do have is not getting to the end of that month.”
On a positive note, Santucci did praise city councillors and Hamiltonians who have been “buffering” food share and it’s partners with money and resources.
Santucci says recently one anoymous donor contributed 86,000 tins of baby formula.
“That gesture is so impactful. It’s going to help so many. Can you imagine mothers worrying at night? What are we going to do in the morning? And here comes this wonderful gentleman.”