Emergency food consumption in North Bay has increased

Feed Ontario released its 2021 hunger report on Tuesday, revealing a record 592,308 people who sought emergency food assistance last year.

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People have to make tough choices about what to do with their last $ 6 a month – spend it on food, heat, or clothing.


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Feed Ontario released its 2021 hunger report on Tuesday, revealing a record 592,308 people seeking emergency food assistance last year – a 10% increase and 12% in 2019, this which makes it the largest single-year increase since 2009.

These same trends are observed in North Bay.

“Our numbers are well over 12%. Sometimes we’ve almost seen double, ”said Dennis Chippa, Executive Director of Gathering Place.

He said that since COVID-19’s first shutdown in March 2020, the numbers have started to rise and then hit record highs by the summer of 2020.

“That’s when we started seeing twice as many people accessing our services. Instead of 20 people needing breakfast we saw over 40, the number of lunches was 40 guests and now there are 60 and dinner is often 120 meals.

And it’s not just the number of people who come to the Gathering Place where the increases are occurring.

Chippa said the need for senior citizen buildings and outlying communities is increasing.

“We provide 160 meals to those in tent city each week, 1,000 outreach meals that go to the Edgewater Apartment building on Lakeshore Drive, the senior apartments, and Sturgeon Falls and Mattawa.

“Almaguin Highlands, South River and Sundridge are also suffering. We are working to get into these areas to help.

The Feed Ontario report recognizes the impact COVID-19 has had on food bank use in Ontario, but points to a build-up of several income insecurity trends in recent years as the main drivers of this growth.


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“Like gasoline on a fire, COVID-19 has only worsened the problems of income security and affordability in Ontario,” said Siu Mee Cheng, interim executive director of Feed Ontario in a statement. Press release. “This includes the province’s weak social safety net, increasing precarious employment and increasingly unaffordable housing and living costs. “

The 2021 Hunger Report notes that while pandemic response measures, such as the Canada Emergency Benefit (CEP), have helped many Canadians avoid the crisis, some of the most vulnerable citizens of the country. province have always fallen through the cracks.

This is reflected in the report’s data, which showed that ECP recipients made up less than 1% of those who accessed food banks last year, compared to a staggering 36% increase in the number of older people. turning to food banks for help.

“The growing number of seniors who depend on food banks for help is a trend we’ve been following closely since 2017,” said Cheng.

“While there are a number of factors contributing to this trend, the most important is how the growing lack of affordability associated with housing and the cost of living has become, particularly for those on fixed incomes. and low income people. “

Debbie Marson, executive director of the North Bay Food Bank, said she had received many calls for help from people new to the city, as well as people with disabilities.

She said ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Payment) recipients had nothing left after paying their rent, heating and electricity.


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People with disabilities, who represent one-third of all food bank users in Ontario, are another demographic group highlighted in the Feed Ontario report.

Based on a sample of eight food banks, it was found that over 60 percent of people who self-identified with disabilities had less than $ 100 a month left over after paying for housing and utilities, including one in five respondents who reported their monthly expenses currently exceed their monthly income, according to the Feed Ontario report.

“Ontarians with disabilities continue to be left behind,” says Cheng. “The financial support provided by the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) is well below the poverty line, making it difficult for beneficiaries to purchase basic necessities without turning to food banks. to meet their dietary needs each month. “

Sarah McGowan, director of communications at Nipissing University Student Union, said students are also suffering.

“Students were one of the first groups that employers got rid of when the pandemic hit,” she said, adding that the use of food banks comes from a variety of students who support their families, adult students with children, and students whose partners have lost their jobs or become ill.

She said the food bank is as undemanding as it gets.

“You don’t have to show financial proof, just show your student number for tracking,” McGowan said.

“Before COVID, we had between 10 and 15 students who used it frequently. We have always seen an influx in December and January, as well as in March and April. During the pandemic, those numbers jumped to 70 to 80 people, ”she said.

McGowan said without the support of Nipissing University’s Lakers teams and community groups, demand would be impossible to meet.

She said they were successful in providing food and gift cards during the pandemic and making holiday baskets for those using the food bank.



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