More post-secondary students using food banks in Ontario: Hunger Report
A volunteer, right, at St. Ignatius Food Pantry bags items as Larry Bossom, 41, who lost his job a few month ago, visits the facility Friday, Nov. 1, 2013, in Chicago. (AP / M. Spencer Green
The Canadian Press
Published Monday, December 2, 2013 1:26PM EST
TORONTO, Ontario -- A newly released report says 375,000 people use Ontario food banks each month, about a third of them children.
The Ontario Association of Food Banks released its 2013 Hunger Report on Monday, to show who uses such services across the province.
Among its findings are the fact that one of the fastest growing populations of food bank users are post-secondary students and recent graduates, especially in rural areas.
The Hunger Report says there is not one college or university campus in Ontario that does not have a food bank or some kind of hunger-relief program onsite.
Post-secondary students make up 3.7 per cent of food bank users and in rural communities this group has increased over the past year to 1.2 per cent, up from 0.2 per cent the previous year.
The report also says more than 130,000 of the people who use the food banks are under 18, making children the largest group accessing food banks at 35 per cent of users.
"Children are by far the largest group of those who rely on food banks each month," said Bill Laidlaw, executive director of the Ontario Association of Food Banks.
"As a province, it is important to recognize that our neighbours, co-workers and children's friends could very well be facing hunger or need support with other vital social services."
People over the age of 65 comprise 3.9 per cent of those who visit food banks.
Overall, food bank use has grown by 18 per cent since 2007, the report says. It lists several factors, including a slow recovery from the economic recession, rising food prices, unemployment and a shortage of affordable housing.
A number of emergency situations in the province, such as flooding in Thunder Bay and Minden, various plant closures and last year's mall collapse in Elliot Lake have also contributed to the problem, the study said.
The 375,000 Ontarians who turn to food banks every month represent 2.8 per cent of the province's population, the report says, making Ontario the most intensive user of food bank services in the country. Only 0.4 per cent of those accessing the banks are homeless.
The report says 45 per cent of all people who use food banks in Canada live in Ontario.
"As a province with so much, there is no reason that any child should have to go to bed hungry," said Laidlaw.
The Ontario Association of Food Banks is a network of more than 127 food banks and more than 1,100 hunger relief agencies across the province.