Food banks in Ontario are experiencing incredibly tough times this holiday season. In many areas across this province, food bank donations are down compared to previous years. Food banks are feeling the pinch as they scramble to meet food drive goals, and simultaneously serve thousands of Ontarians that rely on their services.
In Toronto, the Daily Bread Food Bank is 550,000 pounds shy of their 1 million pound goal for this year's holiday food drive. As the largest food bank in Canada, Daily Bread receives 800,000 visits from clients relying on their services each year. The food bank is calling on Torontonians to fill this gap, but there are only a few days until the campaign closes on December 31. Meeting this goal will be no easy task.
It isn't just the GTA that is having a hard time meeting targets for food drives. Donations from the CP Holiday Train are down as low as 50 per cent in some areas, compared to 2011's numbers. The CP Holiday train travels across Canada and the United States, raising money and food for local food banks in each community the train reaches.
The Clarington East Food Bank only received 448 pounds of food donations when the CP Holiday Train rolled into the town on November 30th. While this is still an impressive contribution from community members, it is a dramatic decrease from the 1,300 pounds donated in 2011.
There are a number of explanations and reasons as to why food bank donations are down this year. More people in Ontario used food banks in 2012 than they did during the 2008 recession. The province (and Canada's) economy is still experiencing trying times, with the rise of low-paying jobs, and high levels of unemployment in areas like Windsor and Sarnia.
This past year there were countless provincial and federal cuts to social assistance programs, dramatic increases in the cost of living, and unforeseeable natural disasters in various communities. In Ontario alone, over 412,990 individuals relied on food banks and food assistance programs each month in 2012. Perhaps the most startling number to note is that just over 17,000 new households accessed food banks for the first time in the past year.
When you look at the food drives across Ontario right now, it is not that difficult to understand why donations are down so low. The need for food banks is increasing rapidly, as the province struggles to find its footing financially. It is complicated to ask people to donate, when they themselves are experiencing their own challenges.
With Christmas only a few days away, food banks across the province are hoping for a holiday miracle to help reach their food drive targets. At the Ontario Association of Food Banks, we urge you to see what you can do to help alleviate hunger in your community. Whether you can donate one jar of peanut butter or 100 cases, please do what you can to ensure no one in your town goes hungry this holiday season.
Through our provincial partnerships, the Ontario Association of Food Banks is able to provide enough food for three meals, for every dollar donated. If you are in a position to give -- we truly thank you for your generosity. Please visit www.oafb.ca to give today.
By: Erin Fotheringham, Development and Operations Coordinator with the Ontario Association of Food Banks