A report, Hunger Report 2014, released on Monday, November 30th, 2015 by the Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB) found a growing number of seniors and single people relying on food banks for hunger relief. According to Hunger Report 2014, nearly 360,000 adults and children are using food banks each month across Ontario as food insecurity becomes the reality for an increasing number in the province, including senior citizens.
The Ontario Association of Food Banks is a network of 125 direct member food banks and over 1,100 affiliate hunger-relief programs and agencies across the province, including: breakfast clubs, school meal programs, community food centres, community kitchens, food pantries, emergency shelters, and seniors centres.
Consistently, food banks in Ontario rank protein as their most needed item. The report states “Every single day there are Ontarians struggling to make ends meet and who are forced to make the difficult choice between their most basic needs, like paying the rent or eating a meal. In a province as prosperous as Ontario, there is no reason a child should go to bed hungry or that a senior should have to skip a meal simply because they cannot afford it.”
According to the report, more than 12 per cent of all Ontario senior citizens fall below the Low Income Measure, which defines and determines poverty. That number hits 27 per cent when looking at seniors who are also single. The Canadian Institute for Health Information released a comprehensive report earlier this year called ‘Health Care in Canada: A Focus on Seniors and Aging’ . The report finds that seniors are expected to make up 23 per cent of the population by the year 2030. By 2031, the proportion of seniors will have nearly doubled in the Atlantic provinces and nearly tripled in the territories. The greatest number of seniors will continue to reside in Ontario and Quebec.
These numbers will certainly have an impact on food bank use as seniors, living on a fixed income, will increasingly find food bank use an imperative source for nutrition, especially seniors living alone.
The stress on single person households are also a cause for concern in the OAFB report released on Monday. The basic income gap for Ontarians in these homes falls 33 per cent under the 2014 poverty line of $19,774, while someone on the provincial disability support program falls 60 per cent below this mark.
James Street Soup Kitchen and Community Centre have conducted a recent survey of guests attending the services there. “From our survey most of our population is between the ages of 51 years and 60 years of age making up 24% of our guests. 50% of our guests is over the age of 50 years, going all the way to 71 years of age and older” shared Ron Sim, General Manager, James St. Soup Kitchen & Community Centre.
While visiting with Ron Sim, at James Street Soup Kitchen & Community Centre, Margaret Muscatello stopped by. Margaret is celebrating her 62nd birthday today. Margaret is also one of the frequent guests who attend the Soup Kitchen and other programmes offered there. “We always try to save donations of birthday cakes for our guests. A lot of people in our group do not have family. We try to bring a little bit of joy to our guests who are celebrating birthdays” said Ron Sim. The birthday cake certainly made Margaret’s day and lifted her spirits on this damp December 1st day.
“So many of our seniors are living without pensions and safety nets” said Ron Sim.
The OAFB report further states “More progress needs to be made to guarantee that social assistance reform has transparent benchmarks, reflects the realities faced by all households and ensures that all individuals can afford their most basic needs”. The report further recommends implementing a “monthly Ontario housing benefit for low income tenants based on their rent and income. By increasing rates to liveable levels, individuals will be better prepared to lift themselves out of poverty and free of hunger.”
“I would like to thank the community for their continuing generosity towards us.” On December 22nd, the Community Centre will be holding their annual Christmas dinner. Volunteers cook and serve all of the meals. “Well over 200 guests are expected for the Christmas dinner.” shared Ron Sim.
Happy birthday Margaret from everyone at saultonline.
For more information about the programmes offered, or ways to support the James St. Soup Kitchen and Community Centre visit: www.soupkitchencommunitycentre.ca
Hunger Report 2014, is available at www.oafb.ca