Food banks in Barrie and the surrounding area report increasing usage numbers, as a new report indicates Ontario’s food bank numbers are rising.
The new provincial report from Feed Ontario revealed over 587,000 adults and children accessed a food bank between April 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022, representing a 15 per cent increase.
The Barrie Food Bank’s executive director said those statistics align with their own.
“More working families and seniors are coming to the food bank,” said Sharon Palmer. “So people who are working minimum wage jobs, precarious work, gig economy, if there’s any kind of interruption to their wages, then they don’t have the safety net.”
The report noted nearly 46 per cent of food bank users pointed to the surging cost of food as their reason for utilizing the service, while over 13 per cent cited expensive housing, and nearly 10 per cent said low wages or not enough working hours were factors .
“What I found really interesting was just the analysis of how the social policies have impacted foodbank usage over the years,” added Palmer. “People on ODSP, Ontario Works, minimum wage earners, it’s alarming.”
At the Innisfil Food Bank, numbers have gone up by 13 per cent over the last two months.
“We’re definitely seeing a lot more newer first-time visitors,” said Donna VanBodegom, food bank coordinator. “Twenty-six new families came alone in the last month, which is not typical and was actually a bit shocking.”
At the Barrie Native Friendship Centre, Tracey Fox is trying to manage the dramatic increase in her food bank usage. As the Hunger to Hope coordinator, she said demand has increased at an unsustainable rate.
“Our direct service numbers have gone up 70 per cent,” Fox said. “If I don’t get any donations in, I would say in the next couple weeks, my shelves would be pretty much depleted.”
Staff at area food banks added that hygiene products and winter clothing are also desperately needed in addition to food donations.