This week the Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB) released the 2015 Hunger Report - an annual snapshot of what food bank use looks like in this province.
In March of this year, 358,963 people visited a food bank. This is roughly equivalent to the population of London, Ontario.
While food bank use has remained stable over the past few years, the OAFB is still seeing numbers that far exceed pre-recession levels. Almost 45,000 more adults and children access food banks each month in 2015 compared to when the recession hit in 2008.
This year, the OAFB has seen some troubling trends when it comes to food bank use, particularly when it comes to one of our most vulnerable populations - senior citizens.
Over the past year, we are seeing a 35 per cent increase in the number of seniors visiting food banks. This growth is particularly concerning when looking at the aging population of Canada, where seniors are predicted to represent 23 per cent of the population by 2030.
In Ontario, over 12 per cent of seniors fall below the Low-Income Measure (LIM), with this number more than doubling to 27 per cent when looking at seniors who identify as single.
Doug Smith from the OAFB is well aware of the financial challenges Ontario's seniors are facing. His mother, Shirley Smith is unable to make ends meet on her own, receiving a pension of only $106 each month for her 25 years of service as an Eaton's inventory clerk. Without the extra help from her children, Shirley says she would be out on the street.
The maximum government allowances for single seniors in this province is a meagre $1342.78 a month. Taking into account the rising cost of food, and utilities, and the incredibly expensive costs of long-term care and retirement facilities - it is no wonder that more and more seniors are living in poverty.
Luckily, Shirley has the support of her family to ensure she receives the care she needs. But what about the seniors who don't have a support system to depend on?
While food banks will always be around to lend a helping hand to a senior in need, it is time to develop long-term solutions to hunger and poverty in Ontario.
This holiday season, support your local food bank. They need your help now more than ever. But also, contact your local MP, MPP, and city councilor. Demand more. We cannot be a province that leaves our seniors in the cold.
For every $1 received, the OAFB is able to provide three meals to someone in need. Visit www.oafb.ca/donate today to support Ontario's food banks!
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