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Food bank usage up 11% in Windsor-Essex as poverty rates climb across nation

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A new poverty report card from Food Banks Canada shows most of the country is on the edge of failure as poverty rates continue to climb.

They’re giving Canada a grade of ‘D minus’ as nearly half of all Canadians are feeling the financial pinch of the cost of living.

“This isn't a report card you want to take home to your parents,” said Food Banks Canada CEO Kirstin Beardsley.

According to the report, one in four Canadians is experiencing food insecurity and 44 per cent feel financially worse off than last year.

“That scares me. We know that when times get tough economically, people who are low income people who are struggling to make ends meet, deal with that for a lot longer,” said Beardsley.

The province received a failing grade on housing costs, with the average family spending 46 per cent of their income on housing when most would recommended spending no more than 30 per cent of gross income on housing.

“That's almost half of what you're earning, so what is left to buy food?” asked June Muir, the CEO of the Unemployed Help Centre Hub of Opportunities. “And that's why food banks are feeling the struggles that we're feeling.”

Muir, who is also the president of the Windsor-Essex Food Bank Association, said 211,331 people visited a food bank in Windsor-Essex in 2023, marking an 11 per cent increase over 2022.

But the staggering stat, she said, is the 10,596 new clients who came looking for food in 2023, which represents a 27 per cent increase from 2022.

All of this, Muir said, is straining the food bank supply at a time when demand is at record levels.

“We're not the answer to poverty. And, you know, our only hope is that governments will work together,” said Muir.

It’s a call to action being magnified Wednesday by Food Banks Canada.

“It's not just saying things are bad. It's not just a complaint. It's saying hey, and we're willing to show up and work with you on solutions as well,” said Beardsley.

The organization is looking for the province and federal government to work together and adopt poverty reduction targets of up to 50 per cent by 2030, modernize Ontario Works and ODSP payments to better sync up with inflation and invest more heavily in affordable housing.

“It's unsustainable. And at what point are we going to hit that that wall were no longer able to serve the growth?” Beardsley said.

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