More working Ontarians rely on a local food bank

A volunteer, right, offers canned food to a woman at the Welcome Hall Mission in Montreal, Tuesday, March 14, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

The need to access food banks in Ontario continues to grow, that includes residents of Ontario with full and part-time jobs. According to Feed Ontario, the number has gone up to 27 per cent over the last three years.     
The report tracked data among 510,000 Ontarians who used a food bank between April 2018 and March 2019. Feed Ontario says the province's labour market conditions make it difficult for workers to make ends meet; forcing them to lose out on the basic necessities month to month. Nearly half of those needing the food bank were earning minimum wage and over the age of 25, one-third had a post-secondary degree.

   "Not only are we seeing a rise in casual and contract employment, but we are seeing more adults having no choice but to work in temporary or minimum wage positions," Feed Ontario executive director Carolyn Stewart said in a statement.

"Oftentimes, these positions do not provide consistent wages or work hours, and seldom provide employer health benefits or paid time off. This is reflected in Ontario's food bank data, which indicates 'low wages and/or insufficient hours' as one of the most common reasons for needing support."

 What's more, the minimum wage of $14 an hour, with plans to boost it to $15... introduced by the previous Liberal government was scrapped by the Ford government. Freezing the minimum wage until October 2020. Feed Ontario's Hunger Report found that labour laws governing access to employment insurance or workers compensation for injuries sustained on the job make it increasingly difficult to access those programs. As a result, it said a growing number of people are forced to rely on social assistance programs such as Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program.
  
Overall, the report found 71 per cent of households using food banks also rely on social assistance or government benefits as a primary income source. As well, one third of food bank users were children under 18, and total visits climbed 4.2 per cent relative to the previous year.
  
Feed Ontario called on the provincial government to significantly reform its social assistance programs by raising rates and implementing a portable housing benefit. Christine Wood, a spokeswoman from the office of Community and Social Services Minister Todd Smith, said the government has raised social assistance rates by 1.5 per cent and increased funding for the provincial child benefit.

"Our government is working hard to ensure people across Ontario are able to put food on the table and provide for their families," Wood said. "That is why we are focused on improving Ontario's social assistance and employment programs, and providing simpler, more streamlined services."