Food for Thought Blog

The Food Bank Sees Rise in New Households and Employed, Accessing Food Assistance

November 30th, 2020Media Releases

For immediate release

Waterloo Region – November 30 – The number of new households and employed individuals accessing food assistance in Waterloo Region is on the rise, according to The Food Bank of Waterloo Region. This comes as Feed Ontario releases their 2020 Hunger Report, which takes a detailed look at current trends related to poverty and food bank usage throughout the province.

This year’s report focuses on the impact of COVID-19 on food bank use in Ontario.

The reality is hunger can happen to anyone, anywhere at any time and that has been amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic, as more people find themselves facing unexpected challenges and are struggling to put food on the table.

“Hunger is a symptom of poverty,” said Wendi Campbell, CEO, The Food Bank of Waterloo Region. “The main reason people in our community, province, and country access a food bank or visit emergency food hamper programs is because they do not have enough money to afford the basic necessities such as rent, heat, hydro, and food. Forcing them to make impossible choices.”

According to the provincial report, the number of employed or recently employed Ontarians accessing food assistance for the first time sits at 12.8%, significantly below Waterloo Region, which comes in at 19%. Up from 18% during the same time frame in 2019.

While this increase can be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, other factors – such as Waterloo Region’s high cost of living, steadily climbing food prices, and the growing gap in social safety nets – continue to play a role in someone’s ability to afford food.

“We have made great strides in working together with members of the Community Food Assistance Network to ensure emergency shelters and those experiencing homelessness in our community have access to the critical supports needed to thrive, such as fresh, nutritious food,” said Campbell.

Waterloo Region is home to some of the most expensive housing costs in the country. In a community where 71% of people accessing food assistance live in rentals, the climbing rent prices directly impact their ability to afford food.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, there has been a 30% increase in the number of new households accessing food assistance for the first time.

Number of unique Households – April 2019 Number of unique Household – April 2020
  • 182
  • 604

The 2020 Hunger Report shows an increase of 26.5% in the number of unique households accessing food assistance between March-June 2020, the report also states that food bank use in our province was on the rise prior to the pandemic.

In Waterloo Region, pre-COVID-19, the number of people accessing food assistance remains consistent, hovering around 33,000 annually.

Although we are not through the pandemic, from March 23 – August 31:

  • 21,274 individual recipients received emergency food and hunger relief support.
  • 1,301 new households accessed food assistance compared to the same time last year.
  • 2,300,332 pounds of fresh, frozen, and non-perishable food was acquired, coordinated, and distributed throughout Waterloo Region.

Click here to read our COVID-19 Impact Report, which provides a look at hunger in our community during the pandemic.

Last year in Waterloo Region:

  • 33,355 people accessed food assistance last year.
  • 83,582 food hampers were distributed throughout the Community Food Assistance Network.
  • 5,041,182 pounds of food was acquired, coordinated, and distributed to the Community Food Assistance Network.
  • 50% of single people; 19% single parent; 18% two parents; 6% couple without children, 7% other.

Each year, members of the Community Food Assistance Network – led by The Food Bank of Waterloo Region and the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank – participate in a national survey providing important data that is used to better understand food insecurity in our province and communities.

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About The Food Bank of Waterloo Region

Founded in 1984, The Food Bank of Waterloo Region (The Food Bank) was the first organization of its kind in Ontario dedicated to providing emergency food to those in need. Thirty-five years after incorporation, The Food Bank continues to evolve to meet the needs of the community and ensure no one goes hungry. As a leader of the Community Food Assistance Network – a system of 100+ community programs and agency partners providing food and connection to vital supports to those in need in Waterloo Region – we acquire and distribute more than 5 million pounds of fresh, frozen and non-perishable food. In addition, we work with provincial and national partners including Feed Ontario and Food Banks Canada (FBC) as part of the Food Bank Distribution Services (FBDS) to acquire and distribute food throughout Southwestern Ontario, including Hamilton, helping programs and agencies continue their essential work. The Food Bank is a registered charitable organization. Learn more at: www.thefoodbank.ca

About the Community Food Assistance Network

The Community Food Assistance Network is a system of 100+ community programs and agency partners, providing food and connection to other vital supports needed by children, seniors, families, and individuals in Waterloo Region. The Food Bank of Waterloo Region and the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank are at the centre of the network, actively sourcing fresh, frozen, and non-perishable food for distribution. Learn more at: foodassistancenetwork.com.

Contact
Jennifer Judges
Communications Specialist
The Food Bank of Waterloo Region
e: jenniferj@thefoodbank.ca
p: 519.743.5576 x 236