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Food bank usage in Ontario up 38% last year: report

Feed Ontario says much of the growth came from first-time visitors
Hands wearing rubber gloves filling cardboard boxes with food

A report released today indicates the number of people who used Ontario food banks went up 38% last year, which it says is the largest single-year increase recorded by the province's food bank network.

The new report by Feed Ontario, a collective of hunger relief organizations, says more than 800,000 people in the province turned to emergency food support between April 1, 2022 and March 31, 2023.

It says the total number of visits to food banks also rose similarly in that time, totalling more than 5.9 million, or 36% more than the previous year.

The report says much of the growth came from first-time visitors, who accounted for two out of five people who used food banks. It notes that's a 41% increase from the previous year.

The document says food bank usage has gone up for the last seven years in a row.

It points to precarious work, the erosion of social support programs and a lack of affordable housing as longstanding factors, with the skyrocketing cost of living as a more recent contributor.

The report says food bank use has continued to rise even though the unemployment rate returned to pre-pandemic levels in 2022.

It notes more workers are turning to food banks, with one in six food bank visitors citing employment as their main source of income in the period covered by the report. That represents a 37% increase over the previous year and an 82% increase over 2016-17, the report says.

"It used to be that having a job meant that you would not need to access a food bank," Feed Ontario's chief executive officer, Carolyn Stewart, wrote in a statement.

"This is no longer the case. Working Ontarians are having trouble earning enough income to afford today's cost of living, even when working multiple jobs or trying to cut expenses."

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