Who is hungry in your riding? Feed Ontario’s new food insecurity tool will give you an idea

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With many sitting down for Thanksgiving meals on Mondays or pondering what to do with an abundance of leftovers, Feed Ontario wants Canadians to also think about what they can do to stand up for those who don’t have big feasts for. vacations.

Feed Ontario, an organization of food banks and industry partners, works to end food insecurity – defined as lack of access to adequate food because of money or other resources Limited – and its new tool aims to raise awareness of what’s going on in communities across the province.

Acting Executive Director Siu Mee Cheng said it was disappointing the provincial government did not mention food insecurity or the rising cost of living when it delivered its Speech from the Throne as the MPs were returning to Queen’s Park on October 4.

Food insecurity is often seen as almost separate and isolated from other critical social issues. But food insecurity is really a symptom of larger systemic issues, and one of the main issues is affordability, housing, and employment.– Siu Mee Cheng, Interim Executive Director of Feed Ontario,

“Food insecurity is often seen as being almost separate and isolated from other critical social issues. But food insecurity is really a symptom of larger systemic issues, and one of the key issues is affordability, housing and employment, “Cheng said in a statement. maintenance.

“In fact, food insecurity is sort of a symptom resulting from the intersection of these three key issues. Many times many of our food bank users cannot afford shelter and as a result food becomes a discretionary expense. “

Rising housing costs have also had an impact on individuals, who have had to turn to food banks for help.

“Since many of our users are minimum wage earners, for example, there is again the challenge of being able to just pay the rent, and once the rent is paid, there is very little discretionary spending to spend. to getting a healthy diet, ”she said. noted.

Help people live “basic, healthy and dignified lives”

Feed Ontario recently launched its interactive online tool called Hunger in my riding. You can search for your municipality, provincial or federal riding and get information such as the number of people accessing food banks, including number of children, number of people on social assistance, poverty rate local and the cost of housing in the area.

Cheng said he hoped people would review this information, start thinking about any supports or policies needed to help people in their community, and contact their local politicians.

Kathryn Scharf, director of programs for Community Food Centers Canada, said now is the time to have these conversations because various federal benefits related to COVID-19 are coming to an end and, combined with rising inflation and food costs with the ongoing pandemic, are being felt in food banks across the country.

“We saw a sharp increase in food insecurity during the pandemic, of around 39%, and we were already living with a fairly endemic problem… of food insecurity before the pandemic,” she said in an interview. .

“We are concerned about the changes in the labor market and the number of people who are now living in precariousness due to the increase in part-time and temporary work, as well as people living on social assistance. . And we know that some populations suffer a lot more. racialized communities, indigenous communities, women.

Allen Huckabay, director of the Dryden Food Bank in northwestern Ontario, says his organization is serving 100 more families per month in 2021 compared to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. (Logan Turner / CBC)

Scharf said a nationwide change is needed in income security policies that deal with minimum wages and social assistance programs, to ensure people can afford to feed themselves “and simply to live. a basic, healthy and dignified life “.

Food banks see new faces

Food banks across the province have seen an increase in user numbers in recent months.

The food bank in Dryden, Ontario is one example. Its director, Allen Huckabay, said they didn’t see a big increase in the number of users when the pandemic hit.

“If anything, we’ve seen more of a drop, which made us scratch our heads a bit,” he told CBC News last month.

“Now [many of the families that stopped using the food bank are] back, but we’ve also seen a significant influx of new customers accessing the food bank this year. “

Huckabay estimates they are serving 100 more families per month since the start of the pandemic.

The Barrie Food Bank reported earlier this year that the number of households in need last February was up 60% from 2020. The food bank provides food to more than 900 households in Barrie and surrounding communities .

“We expect Barrie’s food bank usage to continue to remain high over the next year or so as there is an affordable housing crisis in Barrie and job losses due to the pandemic.” , Executive Director Sharon Palmer said in a post on the food. bank website.

Wendi Campbell, CEO of the Waterloo Region Food Bank, is pictured inside the food bank warehouse. She says that while the peak of the pandemic may have passed, there is a constant and continuing need for emergency food assistance in the community. (Paula Duhatschek / CBC)

The Clarington East Food Bank in Newcastle, Ont., Reports on its website that it helped 171 households in 2020, a 21% increase from the previous year. In addition, a third of those accessing food were under the age of 18.

Last week, the food bank said on its Facebook page that it had fed 106 people and even missed items, asking people for donations of items like side dishes of oatmeal, potatoes and potatoes. rice and toilet paper.

Need “unexpected challenges”

Jane Roy, co-executive director of the London Food Bank in southwestern Ontario, told CBC London that cutting government support for COVID-19 as the Canadian recovery benefit brings more people to the food bank to get Help for the first time, or for some, the first time in a long time.

“Food prices are going up, rents are going up, everything is going up a bit,” she said. “It’s really, really tough there,” Roy said.

A new study by researchers at McMaster University has shown that food bank users in Hamilton have a much harder time than most low-income residents.

“We are talking about the poorest of the poor,” said study co-author Martin Dooley.

Wendi Campbell, CEO of the Waterloo Region Food Bank, said that while the peak of the pandemic has passed, they are just starting to see and understand the long-term effects it will have on their organization.

“Thousands of people face unexpected challenges – such as sudden job loss, illness, changes to federal benefit and support programs, and the rising cost of living – that lead them to access emergency food aid, many for the first time, ”Campbell said. CBC Kitchener-Waterloo.

“While for some this is a way to bridge the gap, the reality is that there is a constant and continuing need for emergency food assistance in our community.”

Campbell said the community has helped feed more than 33,000 people across the community, but she expects the need to remain high for the near future.

“As we head into winter, colder months, we may see an increase in the need for emergency food assistance as people see increased spending on heating and electricity, forcing them between. stay warm or buy food, ”Campbell said.


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