Food for Thought Blog

Despite a Good Economy, there are Many Barriers for Accessing Food

November 12th, 2019Awareness

By: Wendi Campbell, Chief Executive Officer, The Food Bank of Waterloo Region and Cameron Dearlove, Executive Director, Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank.

Nearly 10% of households in Waterloo Region are considered food insecure. That means 34,552 people, 1 in 20 households and 14,469 families face challenges that make it difficult – and in many cases impossible – to put food on the table.

Food insecurity is more than not being able to afford quality, nutritious food; it is about going hungry, skipping meals or eating less because of income constraints. And the reality is, it is closer than many of us realize. It could be a car repair, sudden job loss or an unexpected medical expense.

Food banks exist to help ensure no one goes hungry, but they do not address the root cause of food insecurity – poverty. The 2019 HungerCount Report was released today and it provides a snapshot of food bank usage across Canada, as well as recommendations to strengthen our social safety nets for the most vulnerable populations. The report highlights some staggering national numbers and facts:

  • More than 1,000,000 visits to food banks each month.
  • Despite a good economy, food bank visits are at approximately the same level as 2010 (two years post-recession).
  • Single person households without children accessing food assistance have increased to 48% (10% increase).
  • Seniors (those aged 65+) is one of the fastest growing age groups accessing food assistance.

Food insecurity is not isolated to a particular demographic or circumstance. There are many factors that may contribute to why thousands in Waterloo Region – despite a good economy – are accessing food assistance each month, such as: working income that doesn’t meet basic needs, unemployment, lack of supportive social services, and the rising costs of living in urban, rural and small towns.

Waterloo Region is home to some of the most expensive housing costs in the country. In a community where 79% of people accessing food assistance live in rentals; those skyrocketing costs have a direct impact on their ability to put food on the table while trying to manage other basic necessities.

Last year in Waterloo Region:

  • 1,625 hampers were distributed in the four townships – North Dumfries, Wellesley, Wilmot, and Woolwich – serving 990 people.
  • Food insecurity affected 19,465 households.
  • 14,469 households accessed food assistance.
  • 28% increase (3,659) in the number of households accessing food assistance for the first time.
  • 49% of individuals receiving food assistance are single (above the national average).
  • Seniors aged 65+ represented only 4% of people accessing food banks, but is quickly outpacing other age groups accessing food assistance.
  • 35% of people that accessed food assistance were under the age of 18.
  • More than 80,000 emergency food hampers were provided to the community.
  • 34,552 people received food assistance from the 100+ community programs and agency partners.
  • An additional 9,000 food pick-ups were made through the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank’s Food Co-operative program.

The reality is, people are struggling and with a possible recession looming, we are worried for what’s to come. In order to reduce hunger and poverty in our community and country, there needs to be a continued investment in the Child Tax Benefit, the move towards a Basic Income for all Canadians, continued investment in the Canada Housing Benefit and new investments in early learning and childcare. These changes will help provide people with a solid foundation and the supports needed to end the cycle of poverty.

Locally, The Food Bank of Waterloo Region and Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank work together as part of the Community Food Assistance Network – a system of 100+ community programs and agency partners – providing food and connection to vital supports needed by children, seniors, families and individuals in Waterloo Region. Food is a basic human right and no matter where you live in Waterloo Region – because of this network and the generosity of our neighbours – you have access to quality, nutritious food.

Let’s all continue to work together to ensure no one goes hungry in Waterloo Region – today and every day.

To learn more about how The Food Bank of Waterloo Region and the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank work together to ensure no one goes hungry, visit: To read the full HungerCount 2019 report, visit: