HungerCount 2014, an annual research study of food banks and other food programs in Canada, shows that in a typical month, food banks now provide food and other supports to 841,000 people. This means 170,000 more people each month are seeking assistance compared to when the study was conducted in 2008.
In Ontario, approximately 375,000 people are helped by food banks each month, a number that has increased by 19 percent since 2008. Thirty-five percent of the population served is children.
As a key social determinant of health, food insecurity can deepen inequities and contribute to poor physical and mental health. The report also highlights some troubling trends that contribute to increases in household food insecurity and food bank use across the country. For example, one in five households who are helped by food banks are also relying on disability-related benefits as their main source of income. These individuals face enormous hurdles in order to climb out of poverty and access the resources needed to become and stay healthy. In addition, food bank use among single person households has effectively doubled, from 80,000 households per month in 2001 to 158,000 in 2014. This population includes individuals managing long-term physical and mental health problems as well as seniors who rely on a public pension as their main source of income.
The HungerCount 2014 report proposes several key policy recommendations to reduce the number of people who need help from food banks, including increased investment in affordable housing. CMHA Ontario has also highlighted the importance of investing in affordable housing in our policy work, as individuals with serious mental health conditions frequently identify housing as one of the most important factors in achieving and maintaining their health. As well as freeing income for individuals to invest in food, affordable housing provides a place for individuals with mental health issues to live in dignity and move towards recovery.
For a full copy of the HungerCount 2014 report, visit the Food Banks Canada website.