Food for Thought Blog

Hunger Report 2017

November 27th, 2017Media Releases

The annual HungerCount survey provides data about food assistance: how many people, their ages, family composition, source of income and their housing situation.  In Waterloo Region the partners in the Community Food Assistance Network provide this important data to help us tell the stories of those accessing assistance and help us all understand the depth of the need in our community.

Last year:

  • 32,640 people accessed food assistance in Waterloo Region
  • 1 in 20 households

Men, women and children had to ask for help in order to have the basic need of food met in their daily lives.

Food Assistance Recipients’ Age

  • 0-12 Years
  • 13-18 Years
  • 19-24 Years
  • 25-35 Years
  • 36-50 Years
  • 51-64 Years
  • 65+ Years

Hunger, is a complex problem – there are a multitude of reasons why people access food services.  Our community is becoming increasingly aware of issues like mental health, drug addiction, the opioid crisis, the lack of affordable housing and their effects on the lives of individuals and families. Every day we also hear the stories of single working parents who cannot make ends meet, single people with limited income to pay rent and buy groceries, those living in shelter or residential programs and working families who need short term support during a crisis.  This is just a snapshot of who accessed services and the complexity of issues in our community that require The Food Bank to continue to provide essential food services.

Source of income of emergency food hamper recipients

  • Employment
  • Employment Insurance
  • Social Assistence
  • Disability Related Benefits
  • Pension
  • Student Loans
  • Other Income (e.g. WSIB, OSAP, Immigration)
  • No Income
  • Undisclosed

"47% of working Canadians report it would be difficult to meet their financial obligations if their pay cheque was delayed by even a single week. "

Canadian Payroll Association Survey
September 2017

Low Income

Low income is a key factor in one’s ability to achieve food security.

1 in 10 Canadians can be defined as having low income using the Market Basket Measure (Human Resources and Social Development Canada, HRSDC: measure of low income based on the cost of a specified basket of goods and services representing a modest, basic standard of living). 

  • In Waterloo Region, the number of food assistance program participants who are employed or recently employed (EI recipients) has remained fairly consistent for the past 5 years, around 17%.
  • Social assistance recipient numbers have decreased from 39% to 34%.
  • Those receiving disability benefits have increased approximately 5%.

The Challenges of Being Single

It is becoming more and more evident that a single income is not enough. The number of single person households needing food assistance has risen from 27% in 2013 to 50% of the total households helped in Waterloo Region. This is above the Canadian average of 45% of households needing assistance.

1 in 3 single Canadian adults live in poverty. Unattached single individuals have a much harder time emerging once they have fallen into poverty.

Family Composition

  • Single Parent Familes
  • Two Parent Families
  • Couples with no Children
  • Single People
  • Adult Households

Family breakdown also has an impact on families.  Last year 2,761 single parent households accessed food assistance.  Read about the impact on one mother, here.


The increasing cost of housing has a huge impact on a household’s ability to purchase healthy food. Families in Waterloo Region are often in a position of choosing between rent and going grocery shopping. Most food bank clients spend 70% or more of their income on housing. The Ontario Association of Food Banks reports 90% of food bank clients in Ontario live in rental or social housing. In order to save costs 13% of families and individuals in Ontario are choosing to live in housing that is too small, in need of repair or in poor condition.

“people would rather live on the streets than stay in a dank, run-down basement apartment he was connected to through the city…dismal living conditions make recovery more difficult” (excerpt from article on November 21, 2017)

In Waterloo Region:

  • Average monthly rent for 3 or more bedrooms has increased by 28% in past year
  • Community Housing waitlist has increased by 14% (There is currently a 3-year wait list for a 2-5 bedroom home)
  • Families live in shelters – in 2016 the average stay for families was 43 days – a 19% increase

The Food Bank of Waterloo Region works with programs such as Mary’s Place (YWCA), SHOW, Anselma House and Charles Street Hostel to ensure that food for hot meals and food cupboards is available to enhance other essential support services.

  • We estimate that 10% of those served in our community have been housed in a shelter or residential program for a period of time last year.
  • More than 384,000 meals were served in these facilities last year

It was encouraging to see the details of the National Housing Strategy unveiled on November 22, 2017.

This provides hope for the future but housing challenges are still a significant challenge and reality for far too many low income individuals and families in our community.

Housing Graph: Where Participants Live

  • Band Owned
  • Emergency Shelter
  • On the Street
  • Own Home
  • Private Rental
  • Social Housing
  • With Family/Friends
  • Youth Home

"Housing rights are human rights and everyone deserves a safe and affordable place to call home... and one person on the streets in Canada is too many…having a home is a fundamental building block for success for families and communities”

Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister

Community Collaboration

Collaboration among services and groups in Waterloo Region continues to be essential for the well-being of our community, to increase the attention paid and resources provided and to ensure fair treatment of marginalized groups.  We see the benefits of working together as a Food Assistance Network.  Together, as a Network, we are able to maximize our resources to best meet the needs of the community.

Community Support – What can you do to help?

Our community’s extensive, evolving food assistance network is well positioned to support this broad range of needs through more than 100 programs providing food and services to our most vulnerable neighbours.

The Food Bank of Waterloo Region with the support of these programs will ensure that all needs in our community are met this holiday season and beyond but we need your help.

The support of the community is essential to the work we do!  The full version of the 2017 Hunger Report is available here.

$1 provides 3 meals.  Please, donate today.