Hunger Count Archives


By the Numbers -Year End 2012 - Waterloo Region<?XML:NAMESPACE PREFIX = "O" />

·          91,233 emergency hampers distributed in Waterloo Region

·          35,445 different individuals were served in 2012 across Waterloo Region

·          36% were children

By the Numbers - Hungercount 2013 & Year End 2012 - Food Bank of Waterloo Region:

28,213 accessed emergency food assistance from member agencies of The Food Bank of Waterloo Region. This represents a 5% increase in service compared to 2011. 79,227 hampers were provided to 61,416 households.

504, 041 meals were served by Food Bank of Waterloo Region agencies, which is a 12% increase in meals provided in our community compared to 2011.

Residents of our community from many different backgrounds rely on the support of emergency food assistance. 16% of those who rely on emergency assistance are the working poor. Others acquire their primary income from Ontario Works (39%), Ontario Disability Support (24%), Pension (5%), Student Loans (1%), Disability (1%), while 11% have no income and 3% of participant's income is unknown.

47% of households needing help are families with children (single parent 32%, two parent 15%). Couples without children (18%) and single individuals (27%) also access emergency food assistance.

The majority of individuals rent their housing either private rent (75%) or public rent (23%), while some own their own home (1%) or are currently staying with family or friends (1%). 

What the Numbers are telling us in Waterloo Region:

·       Snapshot in Waterloo Region is no different than the rest of the country - thousands of our neighbours continue to struggle with hunger, and supports from food programs (emergency hampers, community meals, shelters, residential programs) remains high even though the recession has officially ended. In some areas there has been a 5% increase in individuals in our community accessing emergency assistance.

·       Hunger continues to affect those who are most vulnerable in our community. 36% of those who access emergency food are children. Of the households that access emergency food assistance 32% are single parent families and 15% are two parent families.

·       More residents in our community are accessing a hot meal. This reflects a 12% increase in meals from 2011 and an over 30% increase in meals since 2008. Through the dedicated work of our network partners members of our community can access a meal 7 days a week.

·       The increase in meals being provided in the community reflects a recent report released from the Region of Waterloo,Homelessness to Housing Stability 2012 Data Summary Report. There has been a 24% increase in the number of people accessing emergency shelters. People who utilize shelters are accessing them more frequently and staying longer. Sadly there has also been an increase in the number of families accessing emergency shelter has grown 229% from 65 families in 2008 to 214 families in 2012. We are proud to support a number of emergency shelters in our community that provide a place for the members of our community to place their head.

·       In an effort to ensure all members of our community have access to emergency food assistance we have added new programs to address gaps in service in underserviced areas this may account for some of the 5% increase this year. Food Bank of Waterloo Region has also begun to support agencies that have been independent in the past, but now require more food to deliver their programing and are accessing food from the food bank for the first time. Changing trends in donations have meant that a number of small programs no longer have access to old donation sources.

·       In 2013 there have been a number of layoff announcements within Waterloo Region. The effects of a recession or layoffs do not immediately result in an increase in food bank usage. We know that once individuals have utilized all of their emergency savings the need within in the community will continue to grow. This means that in the future more of our neighbours will need the help of the emergency food assistance network. We are working to make sure that help will be there when it is needed. 

·       Emergency Food Distribution is an important part of our work and the focus of our agencies, but it is also about building relationships with the families we serve. Getting to know them and where they are at, to understand what additional services they need, whether it is healthy eating or budgeting classes or employment services so they receive a hand up and not a hand out.

What can we do - what will make a difference?

·       What these numbers tell us is that we continue to need these essential community supports (community programs supported by Food Banks) to feed people, some for the short term, some for the long term. 

·       The community continues to support the work we do with donations of food and funds. Our fall food drives were successful and we appreciate those who were able to give whatever they could to support those who are hungry in our community. Due to this generosity we are in a good position to meet the growing needs of food programs in the community.

·       Working with Food Banks Canada we support recommendations at a provincial and national level that will help people in our community build self-sufficiency - those who need help in the short-term and dignified support for those who need assistance over longer periods.

·       We support the efforts of the Region of Waterloo in their efforts to address homelessness and increase the amount of affordable housing available in Waterloo Region. We look forward to the progress that will be made with the Affordable Housing Strategy from 2014 to 2019 as Waterloo Region continues to address this growing need in our community.

·       The Food Bank of Waterloo Region and our agencies partners will continue to work closely with the Regional Staff to develop proactive and innovative solutions to the provincial cuts to discretionary benefits and Community Start-up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB).

·       Together as a Food Assistance Network in Waterloo Region - The Food Bank of Waterloo Region, The Cambridge Self Help Food Bank and over 100 community programs will continue to improve efficiency, effectiveness and quality of service to meet the basic and emergency food needs of close to different people in our communities.   We will work as a network to enhance community development programs to help.


By the Numbers - Hungercount 2012 & Year End 2011 - Waterloo Region:

· 12% increase in food hamper distribution compared to 2010

· 18% increase compared to pre-recession service numbers (2008)

· 73 335 emergency food hampers were distributed in 2011 (entire Region)

· 4080 Christmas Hampers

· 77 415 food hampers were served/delivered in 2011

· 451 411 Community Meals served through shelter, residential & community programs

· 13% increase compared to 2010

· 26,800 different people served in 2011

· 37% were children

· Dramatic increase in single parent families (up 15%) 39% of households served

· Employed - up 8% - 18%employed or receiving employment insurance (recently employed)

· Increases to all other sources of income including Ontario Works & Disability Support

· Less than 1% own their own home

· 63.1 % rent - publically or privately

· .4 % living with friends temporarily

What the Numbers are telling us in Waterloo Region:

v Snapshot in Waterloo Region is no different than the rest of the country - thousands of our neighbours continue to struggle with hunger, and supports from food programs (emergency hampers, community meals, shelters, residential programs) remains high even though the recession has officially ended.

v Reasons people access food assistance are as diverse as the community. Everyone has a story.

v Increases and decreases across the country - show the changes in economic health of communities - things are getting better for some, deteriorating for others. In Waterloo Region we too see the peaks & valleys of a changing economy - the shift from manufacturing jobs to technology jobs, the shift from high earning opportunities to minimum wage employment - the associated challenges of no benefits, reduced pensions & high cost of basic living expenses - food, shelter, clothing, utilities all have an impact on the number of people accessing social programs.

v Food bank use clearly correlated with the unemployment rate. There is also an increase in those who are employed that are still accessing food services. Recent labour statistics show an increase in part-time jobs & a decline in hours worked. Although people are earning new types of income they are still not at a level that can provide for their families.

v Increase in single parent families is concerning. 37% of people served were children. 39% of households were single parent. We have heard stories of family breakdown as a result of job loss, financial troubles & mental illness.

v People are proud - they only come to the food bank when they have nowhere else to turn. We are thankful for the support of our community - food donations continue to ensure that our food banks can provide supports to the Food Assistance Network to help these individuals & families make ends meet.

What can we do - what will make a difference?

v What these numbers tell us is that we continue to need these essential community supports (community programs supported by Food Banks) to feed people, some for the short term, some for the long term.

v Working with Food Banks Canada we support recommendations at a provincial & national level that will help people in our community build self-sufficiency - those who need help in the short-term and dignified support for those who need assistance over longer periods.

v We support the recommendations of the Ontario Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario but understand that a broken complex system will take time to provide the supports necessary to support all Ontarians, creating opportunities & helping to ensure that no one falls into a downward spiral of poverty because of life circumstances, often beyond their control.

v Together as a Food Assistance Network in Waterloo Region - The Food Bank of Waterloo Region, The Cambridge Self Help Food Bank and over 100 community programs will continue to improve efficiency, effectiveness & quality of services to meet the basic & emergency food needs of close to 27,000 different people in our communities. We will work as a network to enhance community development programs to help individuals & families learn skills & gain additional supports to improve their quality of life. We will work together to ensure that no one goes hungry.


In March of every year, agencies of the Food Assistance Network do a more extensive survey of their clientele. This survey is requested by Food Banks Canada and serves several purposes. It helps us determine trends and act proactively to serve changing needs of meal and hamper recipients. It also helps Food Banks Canada advocate for necessary changes to better serve our communities.

The Food Assistance Network in Waterloo region is composed of a variety of food cupboard and community and residential meal programs.

Keep in mind these numbers provide information on one snapshot in time - March 2011. For information on overall numbers for the year 2010, please see the annual report for The Food Bank of Waterloo Region. The summer, September and October editions of the Waterloo Region Shares Update found on the Waterloo Region Shares website also provide a brief summary of more ongoing HungerCount statistics. You can find the provincial and national statistics in Food Banks Canada's HungerCount report.

Overall Picture of Food Assistance in Waterloo Region at-a-Glance

· 35 769 meals were served in Waterloo Region in March 2011

· 6 811 food hampers were distributed in Waterloo Region in March 2011

· 567 households visited a food hamper program for the first time in March 2011

· Over 1 785 volunteers contributed over 7 000 hours to assist emergency food programs in March 2011

· 2.6% of food hamper recipients were seniors

· 37.5% of those benefiting from a food hamper were youth age 0-18; 1 250 were children under the age of 5

Who is being served? (Food Hamper recipients only)

Single parent




Couples without children


Single person


Primary Source of Income (Food Hamper recipients only)



Employment Insurance


Ontario Works


Ontario Disability Support Program


Disability Plan




Student loan


No Income


Other income


Thank you to our Food Assistance Network programs for providing these statistics.


The Food Assistance Network is made up of over 100 agencies and programs that provide food assistance in Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo, and the four townships of North Dumfries, Wellesley,Wilmot, and Woolwich. Agencies are working together to improve the coordination, efficiency, and effectiveness of the local food assistance system, in order to best meet the needs of those requiring food from food banks, hamper and cupboard programs, meal and residential programs, and community centres. For more information, please visit the website

The numbers below provide a one month snapshot of hunger within our Region.  According to a recent report by Region of Waterloo Public Health1, "In 2010, the cost of the Nutritious Food Basket in Waterloo Region for a 'reference family of four' was $168.45 per week." Their analysis reveals that a family of four receiving Ontario Works would have $189 left for all other monthly expenses after paying for rent and food (expenses such as clothing, transportation, childcare, telephone, household and personal care items, school supplies, etc.) 

By comparison, a single person receiving Ontario Works would be left with a net expense of $227 if he/she paid their rent and purchased a nutritious food basket each week (price adjusted for a household of one).  A family of four with a minimum wage earner also makes less than the estimated amount needed to pay for monthly expenses.  Thus, it is not surprising that so many people are accessing food assistance. 

While the Food Assistance Network is thankful for the amazing generosity of its community donors, it looks forward to a day when hunger is no longer acceptable.

Needs within Waterloo Region in March 2010
  • 7,810 food hampers were distributed                                                                                                                                                               

  • 6,148 households received food hampers, representing 14,575 people                                                                                                       

  • 42,497 meals were served    

Who Receives Food?                                                                             
Under 18 Years of Age 39.7%    
Over 18 Years of Age 60.3%
Household Composition

Single parent families 20.5%                                                                                                                                                         Two parent families 22.6%                                                                                                                                                    Couples without children 8.4%                                                                                                                                                             Single people 30.5%                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Multigenerational 1.0%Unknown 12.5%                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Primary Source of Income

Full-time Employment 6.2%                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Part-time Employment 6.6%                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Employment Insurance 4.3%                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Ontario Works 35.7%                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Ontario Disability Support 19.7%                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Disability Plan 0.3%                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Pension 4.0%                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Student loan/Scholarships 0.7%                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Other 4.1%                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      No income 5.4%                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Unknown 13.0%

1.          Reference: REGION OF WATERLOO PUBLIC HEALTH, Healthy Living, Planning and Promotion Division,

Report on the Nutritious Food Basket, Report PH-10-045 presented to the Community Services Committee of Regional Council on September 7, 2010.$file/PH-10-045.pdf?openelement (Accessed October 6, 2010)


Hunger Count 2009
In response to Food Banks Canada HungerCount 2009 - National report on hunger and food bank use.

On November 16th & 17th members of the Food Assistance Network in Waterloo Region participated in the Waterloo Region Food Summit. As a community we are working on goals and priorities for improving food access and food security. We are committed to longer term solutions thus reducing the number of people in need of food assistance and addressing the root causes of food insecurity.

The immediate priority of the food assistance network continues to be the provision of emergency food - a basic needs strategy to alleviate hunger and assist in achieving food security. Today we join with our partners across Canada for the release of the annual HungerCount report and are sharing with the community the realities and impact of hunger right here in Waterloo Region.

Food Bank use is rising across the country - and is rising right here in Waterloo Region.

In the month of March 2009, in Waterloo Region:

  • 12 820 people accessed an emergency food service

  • 8% increase over 2008

Since March 2009:

Emergency food usage has continued to rise. The impact on resources (human, food and financial) has been significant:

  • 246,586 additional pounds of non-perishable food distributed - a 16% increase

  • Food distribution so far this year 1,843,188 lbs of food compared to 1,596,602 in 2008

  • 15% increase in the number of food hampers distributed

  • 17% increase in the number of households accessing service (many for this first time)

Agencies and programs throughout Waterloo Region are seeing people for the first time - those who never thought they would ever have to access this type of service.

This has been the largest increase our community programs have seen in their existence and the largest spike in usage since the recession in 1993.

Feedback from a number of agencies throughout the network indicates that challenges in the local job market are having a significant impact on the individuals and families who are accessing services (unemployment, challenges with access to training, challenges with access & eligibility for benefits, skills mismatch)

  • For the first time in 3 years there are fewer people who are considered "working poor" but a 37.5% increase in those accessing unemployment insurance.

  • There has been a 17% increase in access by individuals who are receiving social assistance.

  • Those reporting no income have doubled - programs have reported that challenges in accessing unemployment benefits are a significant cause of this.

  • Increase in number of seniors - As reported in the recent Vital Signs report a larger percentage of our communities senior citizens are living in poverty.

    Adequate incomes continue to be largest barrier to food security. Although we have seen increases to minimum wage in recent years, the pension and social assistance supports are still not enough for individuals and families to provide for all of their basic needs.

Food Security

As these local and national statistics are being shared the Waterloo Region Food Summit continues with a focus on the issue of food security and the realization that 10% of our community worries about not having enough to eat.

What can we do?

  • To reduce dependence on emergency food assistance?

  • To ensure that all people have adequate incomes?

  • To make our community food secure?

The work of the summit will be wrapped up today with a declaration committing its signatories to working to address the problems that are causing our community to become food insecure.

Participating members of the Food Assistance Network have signed this declaration and are committed to supporting the work of people and organizations in Waterloo Region who focus on the priorities that were identified at the Summit including:

  • Work with our provincial partners to advocate for increases to Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program benefits through a systematic, transparent process.

  •  Work with local partners to advocate for a living wage for all employees and educate employers.

  •  Increase the availability, awareness and access of culturally appropriate food by strengthening networks between food agencies and multicultural populations.

  • Continue improving emergency food assistance to ensure that there is a basic needs provision as a short term solution while continuing to work on other long term solutions that will improve the overall food security of our community.

Hunger Count 2008
The Perpetual Problem of Hunger in Waterloo Region -- "It shouldn't be this hard"
A snapshot of hunger in Waterloo Region

HungerCount is an annual survey coordinated by Food Banks Canada that provides a snapshot of food bank use in Canada. The following data represents the snapshot for Waterloo Region. Data is collected from programs providing emergency food services (food hampers, community meals, shelter & residential programs) throughout Waterloo Region and represents program usage from January - December 2007.

 Primary Source of Income

 Percentage of Hamper Recipients



 Employment Insurance


 Ontario Works




 Ontario Disability Support Program


 Other Income


 No Income/Unknown




 Household Composition

 Percentage of Hamper Recipients

 Single parent families


 Two parent families


 Childless couples


 Single people





 Percentage of Hamper Recipients





 Average number of people receiving a hamper each month


 Average number of households receiving a hamper each month




Total Number of  Different People


Total Hampers Distributed




 Total Meals Served


PDF version of this summary available to print or download.

On November 26, 2008 members of the Food Assistance Network in Waterloo Region travelled from Cambridge to Waterloo to Wilmot Township to release HungerCount 2008, illustrating the complexity of this perpetual problem in our community. Hunger in Waterloo Region is not defined by urban or rural residence, employment or unemployment, or personal attributes. It is a problem that has the potential to touch all of our lives and the lives of our neighbours. More information is available:

Transcript of the Presentation available in pdf format.

Media Release -- Numbers Consistent - Hunger a Perpetual Problem in Waterloo Region.

25in5: Network for Poverty Reduction

Hunger Count 2007

Statistics derived from our local Annual Hunger Count show that approximately 5% of Waterloo Region residents needed food assistance in 2006 - a very similar situation to 2005.

The overall number of people accessing food in 2006 was essentially unchanged from 2005 (24,605 in 2006 and 24,415 in 2005). There were 61,364 emergency food hampers provided in 2006 compared to 62,349 in 2005. 385,638 meals were served in 2006 compared to 398,147 meals served in 2005.

  • 25% of food hampers went to people who were earning income.
  • 31% of food hampers were shared with individuals on Ontario Works.
  • 14% of food hampers were provided to disabled persons. This figure continued its upward trend with a 17% increase over 2005.
  • 3% of food hampers went to people receiving Old Age Pension.
  • 8% of food hampers were provided to people who had no source of income.

The Food Bank of Waterloo Region believes that finding workable solutions will take the collective effort of government and agencies and the community. The newly announced poverty reduction initiatives of both the federal and provincial governments are an important first step and are greatly needed. In the interim, The Food Bank continues to "fill the gap."

Media Release -- April 4, 2007

Hunger Count 2006

The Food Bank of Waterloo Region through its 66 member agencies and community food programs in Waterloo Region distributed 5% more emergency food hampers in 2005 and provided the same number of meals in 2005 as in 2004. The number of food hampers provided to disabled persons increased by 21% in 2005 after having almost tripled in the period from 2002 to 2004.

These statistics are derived from The Food Bank's Annual Hunger Count - a community snapshot of emergency food distribution over a 12 month period.

Through the Hunger Count, The Food Bank of Waterloo Region has also identified several groups of recipients that remain at the same level as in the previous year.

  • individuals earning income (part-time employment, full-time employment, employment insurance) represent 29% of emergency food hamper usage. In 2004, this was a 3% increase over 2003 and a 6% increase over 2002.
  • individuals on Ontario Works represent 32% of food hamper recipients. In 2004, this was a 3% decline from 2003 and a 5% reduction from 2002.
  • individuals receiving Old Age Pensions represent 3% of food hamper recipients, twice the number as in 2002. In 2004, the number of food hampers provided to people on Disability Pensions virtually tripled in the prior 24 months.
  • children under the age of 18 represent 47% of all food hamper recipients which is an increase of 2% from 2002. This percentage has remained constant since 2002.

Further information can be found at:

Food Bank of Waterloo Region Hunger Count Comparison 2000-2004

Ontario Association of Food Banks Hunger Count 2005

Canadian Association of Food Banks Hunger Count 2005