Hunger Report 2014, released in November, 2015 by the Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB) found a growing number of seniors are 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.
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.
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. “So many of our seniors are living without pensions and safety nets” said Sim.
In a report released from the Nutritional Sciences Department, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, it was found that ‘Food security in senior citizens is associated with functional impairments, suggesting that food insecurity in elderly persons comprises not only limited food affordability, availability, and accessibility but also altered food use. Food-insecure senior citizens experience multiple problems that prevent them from achieving nutritional well-being and seeking food assistance programs.’
The Report further stated ‘Food insecurity is especially damaging to elderly persons because their functional impairments and health problems alter ability to use food. Ability to use food is the ability to prepare, gain access to, and eat food that is available in the household. Ability to use food is not the only—but is an essential—component in maintaining adequate food use in elderly persons, which includes ways in which individuals prepare foods and combine foods into dishes, meals, and meal patterns’
The James Street Soup Kitchen and Community Centre continues to be a valuable and necessary resource for our community. Saultonline reported last month that the Food Bank at the Centre was essentially depleted of food. Citizens of Sault Ste. Marie & Area rallied and are continuing to give generously to re-stock the shelves at the James St. Food Bank.