A slight dip in food-bank use across the province in 2011 may be short-lived, says the Ontario Association of Food Banks. Although the number of food-bank users in March 2011 was down slightly from March 2010, food banks collecting data this month for next year’s report say demand is up again, the association said. “It is a real concern,” said Bill Laidlaw, executive director of the association, a network of 20 regional food banks and more than 100 community food banks across Ontario. Amid steady increases since the 2008 recession, 395,000 Ontarians were forced to rely on food banks in March last year, according to the association’s latest report released Monday. That is down from a record of 402,000 in March 2010. Among the reasons for the current increase are recent plant closures in southern Ontario and native people leaving troubled reserves in the north, Laidlaw said. Meanwhile, food prices have been rising by an average of 3 per cent annually and shelter costs have been growing by 2.2 per cent a year. While the national unemployment rate in 2011 was the lowest since 2008, food bank use persists because many laid-off workers are taking lower-paying jobs and having trouble making ends meet, Laidlaw added. Ten per cent of food bank users in 2011 had never sought emergency assistance before, a figure unchanged from 2010, he noted.
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The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness is the largest national research institute devoted to homelessness in Canada. The COH is the curator of the Homeless Hub.Canadian Observatory on Homelessness