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Food bank reliance rising in Ontario

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A new report from Ontario's main food bank organization says there has been a dramatic spike in first-time users of food banks. In its annual assessment, the Ontario Association of Food Banks also calls for the governments to provide more money for all social services.According to the Association, 17,000 new households in Ontario began using food banks this year, a 20 percent increase over last year. Overall, more than 350,000 people in Ontario rely on food banks every month.

Amanda King, a spokeswoman for the Ontario Association, says some of the highest users of food banks are women, children and people with disabilities. King says job insecurity is one of the main causes behind the food insecurity.

"What we think is that a large part of this is the changing landscape of employment in Ontario. Currently there are more than 1.7 million jobs in Ontario that are considered insecure. Since 2008, of the jobs created in Canada, 80 percent have been temporary positions," King says.

King says many of those jobs have no benefits or sick days, and that affects an entire family.
    
The problem isn't just in Ontario. Across Canada, the number of people who depend on food banks continues to grow.

"In March of this year, 840,000 Canadians received food from a food bank.Without it, they would not have been able to feed themselves and their families," says King.

Katherine Schmidt, the executive director of Food Banks Canada, says the numbers are alarming and have been increasing since the recession.

"It is now a disturbing 25 percent higher than it was in 2008. Food banks are now helping 170,000 more people each month than they were before the recession," Schmidt says.

Schmidt and King are calling for more government investment in affordable housing as well as more money for education and training for people unable to access employment benefits and for increased payments to all social service programs.

WBFO’s comprehensive news coverage extends into Southern Ontario and Dan Karpenchuk is the station’s voice from the north. The award-winning reporter covers binational issues, including economic trends, the environment, tourism and transportation.