By Shaun Fitl
According to a report published by the Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB), seniors are using food banks 35 per cent more this year than last year.
Sharon Lee, executive director at the OAFB, told Humber News this is because of lack of affordable housing and the cost of living and support programs.
“There is not a simple answer, ” Lee said, to why seniors are so hard-pressed to get the food they need to live.
A major reason for the lack of disposable income for seniors is the economic downturn as both savings and investments have lost value, she said.
“You don’t know what the economy is going to do,” Lee said, and seniors are at risk for fluctuations in the market more than others because of their limited financial resources.
It is difficult to predict the changes in cost of living, she said.
Over 12 per cent of seniors fall below the poverty line, said the OAFB report.
“If you are a senior today you don’t receive a lot of income,” said Lee.
“This year there has been a 1.2 per cent increase in food prices,” she said.
This increase makes for a lot of work for organizations like the OAFB.
“We are organizations that provide emergency support and programming as well as help people find affordable housing, resume reviews, (etc)… but when you’re a senior your income is fixed,” said Lee.
Inflation is a major factor contributing to the decrease in financial stability for seniors and other affected impoverished groups in Canadian society.
“We need the Ontario government to invest in well-paying permanent employment… and (we need to) ask our government to update social assistance programs to reflect cost of living (and) close the gap between rent and income,” said Lee.
There is more to food banks and related organizations than simply providing resources. When impoverished people feel alone the OAFB can provide community services to help them feel connected to each other and at peace.
“A lot of our food banks have a café where people can drop by have coffee, tea, lunch… people can get out and connect with others because sometimes you feel isolated,” said Lee.
Lee said that many young people are thinking about what could happen “years down the road” and wants us to realize we could be in the same position ourselves in the future.
The OAFB and other similar organizations encourage people to contribute to the financial support safety net that helps many Canadians on a daily basis.
“We can provide the equivalent of three meals to someone in need… for one dollar,” said Lee.
Go to www.oafb.ca to donate today. The OAFB will be conducting a social media awareness campaign about hunger this week as well as an email campaign until the end of December to raise money for the holidays and help people get into the spirit of giving.
Volunteer opportunities at local food banks are available and can be searched in the OAFB directory.