Lack of affordable housing forcing more to rely on Hamilton's food banks: report


The lack of affordable housing in Hamilton is forcing more and more people to rely on food banks to eat, a recent report from Hamilton Food Share finds.

"In Hamilton, households who access a food bank spend, on average, more than 50 per cent of their income on housing, increasing the risk of displacement or homelessness," the 2019 Hunger Report says.

According to a 2016 CMHC report, paying 30 per cent to 49 per cent puts households at high risk of homelessness. Paying 50 per cent or more of household income puts households at extreme risk of homelessness.

The report also notes that more than 2,000 households, representing 4,385 people, pay 50 per cent or more of household income on their rent and utilities.

"Of those individuals, a shocking 400 people pay 100 per cent or more of their total income for rent and utilities."

The report found that in the month of March 2019, almost 23,000 visits to food banks were logged across the city, which the highest on record.

While the increase in households accessing a food bank rose by five per cent, the report notes, the alarming statistic is that the number of children accessing food banks grew by 10 per cent in Hamilton.

This means that children make up 40 per cent of people who go hungry in Hamilton.

On a typical day, the report finds, there are more than 300 children visiting food banks across the city.

"Never let the thought of 9,000 visits from children every month be a routine statistic," said Joanne Santucci, executive director of Hamilton Food Share. "Never believe child hunger is a condition beyond our control."

The reason this particular statistic is so alarming is that access to nutritious food is "essential for
children to support healthy cognitive, motor, physical, emotional and behavioural development, and to ensure that children can learn," the report says.

"Without healthy food, children are at risk for cognitive impairments affecting their ability to learn," said Santucci. "This should bring every policymaker to the table with a focused political will for change."

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