TORONTO—A new report shows singles and seniors are increasingly relying on Ontario’s food banks.
The report released Monday by the Ontario Association of Food Banks says singles now account for roughly 49 per cent of food bank visits—an 11-per-cent increase over five years and the highest number on record.
And it says the number of seniors visiting food banks in the province jumped by 35 per cent over last year.
The organization says that is “particularly concerning” in light of the country’s aging population.
Overall, it found slightly fewer people went to food banks this year—about 359,000 compared with 375,000 in 2014—but the number of visits went up by about 10,000.
The association says the rise in precarious employment, the dearth of affordable housing and gaps in social assistance are factors that lead people to depend on food banks.
“Without stable jobs, an increasing number of Ontarians are finding it difficult to make ends meet each month and are being forced to look to food banks for assistance. Creating well-paying jobs that build our economies and our communities is essential to alleviating hunger,” the report says.
The organization also recommends creating national and provincial affordable-housing strategies, noting 90 per cent of food bank users live in rental or social housing, up four per cent from the previous year.
Boosting social assistance would also help, it says. More than 65 per cent of food bank clients list social assistance as their main source of income, and increasing relief “will reduce the need for additional support agencies like food banks.”
The changes in demographics among food bank clients “show that there are groups that at a growing risk for continued food insecurity, and that unless measures are implemented to assist, this need will only continue to grow.”