Social welfare recipients are closely depending on boards: report

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Sudbury Star employees Lynne Ethier, fundraising and community engagement manager for Our Children, Our Future, prepares grocery bags for distribution to 100 families earlier this year.  The initiative was a partnership with Sudbury Food Bank. Lynne Ethier, fundraising and community engagement manager for Our Children, Our Future, prepares grocery bags for distribution to 100 families earlier this year. The initiative was a partnership with Sudbury Food Bank. Photo by John Lappa / Sudbury Star

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More than 80 percent of Sudbury welfare recipients depend on blackboards to survive, as shown by a hunger in My Riding Tool.

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Developed by the Feed Ontario Group, the interactive tool enables users to create custom reports on the impact of hunger on their provincial elections and supports conversations with local MPPs ahead of the 2022 provincial elections.

The reports include statistics on board use, welfare, rental costs, social housing waiting lists, and poverty rates.

Using the Hunger in My Riding tool, Feed Ontario said it analyzed 100 communities in Ontario and found that rent was only affordable for a full-time minimum wage worker in two of the 100 communities.

“The fact that housing is affordable for minimum wage workers in only two percent of the Ontario communities surveyed is worrying but not surprising,” said Siu Mee Cheng, interim managing director of Feed Ontario, in a press release. “We urge the Ontario government to invest in affordable housing and develop policies that will help build stable jobs and liveable wages.”

The Hunger in My Riding tool showed that Nipissing (83 percent), Sudbury (82 percent), and Niagara Center (81 percent) are the rides with the highest rates from food banks that are on welfare.

The tool showed that in 2019 while riding in Sudbury, 4,906 people used a board a total of 23,120 times. In Ontario, 522,000 people used a tablet 4.7 million times in 2019.

In addition, 38 percent of these visits were made by children. In Ontario, 33 percent of Blackboard visitors are children, even though they make up only 20 percent of the total population.

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As for the Nickel Belt, 1,466 people used a blackboard a total of 11,383 times, and 35 percent of those visits were made by children.

The Hunger in My Riding tool was released the last week of the fifth annual Hunger Action Month campaign organized by Feed Ontario.

According to Feed Ontario, the findings are consistent with ongoing trends in reasons for gaining access to Ontario’s food banks, including affordability of housing and inadequate income from work.

As shown in Feed Ontario’s 2020 Hunger Report, nearly 90 percent of the visitors to the Tafel are rented or public housing, who spend the majority of their monthly income on rent. The number of working visitors has also increased by 44 percent on Ontario’s food banks.

The Hunger in My Riding tool draws on visitor data collected from the Food Banking Network Feed Ontario through the Link2Feed cloud-based customer intake system, as well as data from the Department of Children, Community and Social Services, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Statistics Canada and the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association.

“Hunger is a symptom of poverty,” said Cheng. “Over 537,000 people accessed a blackboard more than 3.2 million times in the past year, and we expect that number will continue to grow.

“Only by acting together to understand and respond to the factors and conditions that contribute to food insecurity can we end hunger in Ontario.”

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Hunger Action Month is a provincial campaign designed to encourage organizations, communities and individuals to take action against hunger. Run in partnership with local food banks, the month encourages people to make change through four key actions: education, advocacy, volunteering and donations.

Other important data highlights are:

– The rides with the highest percentage of visitors who are children are Brampton West (49 percent), Milton (48 percent) and Nepean (46 percent).

– There is a public housing waiting list in every county in the province, from 121 households in Rainy River to 78,177 households in Toronto.

To see how hunger is affecting your community, visit feedontario.ca/hunger-in-my-riding.

To learn more about Hunger Action Month, visit feedontario.ca/hunger-action-month.

Feed Ontario brings together food banks, industrial partners and local communities to end hunger and poverty.

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