Impact report shows startling increase in people needing food assistance

By CityNews Kitchener Staff

One in 10 households in the region are struggling to put food on the table, according to The Food Bank of Waterloo Region’s community impact report for 2023.  It shows 58,600 adults, children, and seniors accessed food assistance programs this year.

Around 11 per cent of those households reported that they had a job but not enough income to put food on the table. An added 21 per cent of those households reported they receive assistance from government programs but don’t have enough money to pay for groceries.

The report shares data collected from July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023 and that more people are signing up to receive help from The Food Bank of Waterloo Region.

A year ago, one in 14 households reported needing help with food. Just two years ago, that number was one in 20 households.

The impact report also shows the number of food hampers delivered in the community rose by 33 per cent from last year.

Interim CEO of The Food Bank of Waterloo Region, Kim Wilhelm, says the numbers are startling and the escalated cost of living is creating challenging situations for local families.

“If you would have told me a year ago that we were going to see the numbers today that we are seeing I wouldn’t have believed you, but we continue to see rapid increases month over month and its simply not sustainable,” said Wilhelm.

The community impact report also showed a significant increase in new households accessing food assistance programs, which went up by 113 per cent from the year prior.

“People who have never had to access food assistance before are now finding that they don’t have the funds in their budget and they’re accessing food assistance for the very first time,” said Wilhelm. “That is one of the highest increases we are seeing.”

The report showed that 3 per cent of households that accessed food assistance programs in the region relied on Old Age Security payments but not enough to cover the costs of food every month.

Wilhelm said that 9 per cent of people accessing their programs are between the ages of 45 and 64, and three per cent are 65 or older.

“It’s concerning that more then 58 thousand people in Waterloo Region accessed food assistance last year, its a 45 per cent increase from the previous year,” said Wilhelm.

The food bank relies on community donations and support to help people. They distributed over seven million pounds of fresh, frozen and non-perishable food to the Community Food Assistance Network and other partners they have through the Food Bank Distribution Services (FBDS) program in 2023.

The Food Bank of Waterloo Region partners with over 120 local agencies to make sure everyone is fed or getting food distributed to them.

The Network distributed 151,000 food hampers thoughout the community, which was up 33 per cent from the 114,000 hampers distributed in 2022. The Network was able to serve 874,000 community meals, which is a 29 per cent increase over the 675,000 meals served in 2022.

“Our Network partners are here to provide food and we encourage people to reach out for help and contact our Centralized Food Assistance Outreach line at 519-743-5576 extension 340 if they need support,” said Wilhelm.

To donate food or monetary donations to The Food Bank of Waterloo Region you can here.

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