If Ontario wants to lower food bank use it needs to raise income supports, report warns

CBC News

Governments need to continue to raise the minimum wage and social support benefits in the face of inflation and rent increases if they want to keep food bank usage from rising, researchers and advocates warn.

According to a research paper released Wednesday by University of Calgary researchers on Toronto’s Daily Bread Food Bank visits from January 2014 to March 2020, usage increased by 53 per cent and correlated most strongly with the rise in rent and food prices.

“Payments are not keeping up with inflation,” said Ron Kneebone, the scientific director of Social Policy and Health research at the University of Calgary, who co-wrote the report.

“You’re going to see more and more people having to rely on food banks in order to make ends meet.”

The report comes amid a sharp increase in the use of GTA food banks since the start of the pandemic. Its findings show visits are influenced by changes — or the lack of them — in income support rates, with the most significant influence being the amount of money users get under the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). Daily Bread says about 51 per cent of its clients report having a disability or health condition expected to last a year or more. About one in four of Daily Bread’s users report ODSP as their primary source of income.

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