Toronto, December 03, 2018 - The Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB) released
its 2018 Hunger Report today which revealed 501,590 individuals turned to a food
bank last year alone. While the number of individuals accessing food banks is only
marginally higher than the previous year, the report finds a staggering 10 percent
increase in the number of senior citizens requiring emergency food and support,
a growth rate nearly three times faster than that of Ontario's senior population.
"There are a number of contributing factors to this emerging trend," says Michael
Maidment, Chair of the OAFB Board of Directors. "One of the most significant being
the rising cost of housing and the challenges related to trying to balance this
expense while living on a fixed income."
The report finds that 74 percent of seniors accessing food banks are either rental
or social housing tenants, and that only 10 percent own their homes, compared to
77 percent of seniors in the general population. Further, the report finds that
the value of government transfers to seniors has remained stagnant while the cost
of living has continued to rise. As a result, more seniors have started to fall
below the poverty line and turn to food banks for assistance when their retirement
savings and benefits fall short of meeting their monthly expenses.
"Beyond the challenge of trying to balance a stagnant income against the rising
cost of living, the increase in seniors accessing food banks reflects significant
changes in the job market that have taken place over the last three decades," says
The report points to both a decline in secure employment and employer-provided pension
programs in favour of precarious work and contract positions as one of the reasons
that adults have struggled, or are struggling, to buy a home or hold onto savings.
It also highlights a recent poll by CIBC which found that 32 percent of Canadians
between 45 and 65 years of age have nothing saved for retirement.
"Stagnant wages and unpredictable incomes mean more adults and families have no
other choice but to spend their savings during rough patches," says Maidment. "This
creates a ripple effect that often extends into their later years, as low-income
adults that are unable to save for retirement are more likely to experience poverty
While the report recognizes the investments made by the federal government into
retirement benefits like Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement,
it also discusses barriers related to accessing these programs. The Guaranteed Income
Supplement, for example, is only available to senior citizens that file their taxes
annually, which means that those who do not have access to tax clinics or services,
cannot afford tax help, or who struggle with mobility issues or illness, can easily
become ineligible for this income, particularly as they age.
To help assist the growing number of seniors accessing hunger-relief services, many
food banks have started offering specialized programs, such as meal delivery services,
tax clinics, mobile markets, and diet-specific foods to help meet their needs. Provincially,
the Ontario Association of Food Banks is calling on the Government of Ontario to
implement policies that address the root causes of hunger, including investments
in affordable housing and the commitments outlined in the National Housing Strategy.
The Ontario Association of Food Banks is also calling on the Government of Canada
to improve the support available to Canadian seniors by removing the barriers that
make accessing each benefit difficult or impossible for those that need it most.
Further, the Ontario Association of Food Banks recommends that the Government of
Canada assume oversight of Ontario's Basic Income Pilot as a possible evidence-based
solution to poverty and trends related to a changing workforce.
"Ontario's food banks work tirelessly to serve half a million adults, children,
and seniors every year, but they cannot do it alone," says Maidment. "We believe
that our vision of ending hunger and poverty in Ontario is shared by all levels
of government, and that this problem can be solved by working together."
2018 Hunger Report Highlights and Trends
- Hunger by the Numbers
- 501,590 adults, children, and seniors accessed food banks across Ontario between
April 1st, 2017 – March 31st, 2018
- Ontario's food banks were visited 2,935,476 times during the same period
- 49 percent of individuals visited the food bank three times or less, with only 14
percent visiting 12 or more times per year. Seniors are more likely to require ongoing
support, with 25 percent of this demographic visiting 12 or more times per year.
- 52 percent of households served by food banks identified as single-person households,
with 89 percent being rental or social housing tenants, and 65 percent citing social
assistance as their primary source of income
- 33 percent of food bank visitors were children under 18 years of age
- Rise in Senior Hunger
- 10 percent increase in the number of seniors accessing Ontario's food banks over
the previous year, a rate nearly three times faster than the growth of Ontario's
- 25 percent of seniors accessing food banks visit 12 or more times per year, compared
to 13 percent of food bank visitors under 65 years of age
- 46 percent of seniors that require the support of a food bank also cite old age
pension as their primary source of income
- 10 percent of seniors that access hunger-relief services own their home, compared
to 77 percent of seniors in the general population; 74 percent of seniors that visit
food banks are rental or social housing tenants
- The OAFB points to a number of growing trends that could be contributing to this
- A decline in employer provided pension programs over the last 30 years
- The challenges adults face in trying to save for retirement or invest in homeownership,
due to the rise in precarious employment and contract work
- A decline in the value of government benefits when compared to the rising cost of
living, and barriers that make it difficult for many seniors to obtain these benefits
- How Food Banks Help
- Food banks offer fresh, healthy food and a diverse range of programs, depending
on the community. In Ontario, these programs include rental and housing supplements,
tax clinics and assistance with government forms, meal deliveries and mobile services
for those that cannot access the food bank, community cafes, and workshops.
To download a full copy of the 2018 Hunger Report, or to find out more about food
banks in Ontario, please visit:
About Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB)
The Ontario Association of Food Banks is the province's leading provider of emergency
food support to frontline hunger-relief agencies and the leader in province-wide
hunger research. Our mission is to strengthen communities by providing food banks
with food, resources, and solutions that address both short and long-term food insecurity.
For every $1 donated, the Ontario Association of Food Banks can provide the equivalent
of 3 meals to someone in need.