Archive for September, 2011

Snapshot of Hunger

September 8, 2011

Statistics are one way that food banks try to communicate the demand for food assistance to the public. To calculate statistics food banks pull information from some of the questions that are typically asked when people come in to access our services. (To read about the questions we ask in our intake process, click here).

Calculating statistics is a complicated process that takes a bit of time and a lot of formulas. But it’s all worthwhile when you can share the results because many people have no idea how high our numbers go each day or the similarities that more than 130 families can have in a single day when you break down the small facts. For example one of the statistics that really impacts me to think about is that throughout 2010 approximately 37 percent, or 25 492 people who were assisted with food were under the age of 18.

That’s a significant number of people, which is why it’s important for us to share these numbers so that the community is aware of who needs help. Aside from sharing these numbers on our blog, many of the staff and volunteers will share any number of our statistics with a variety of people who we talk to about our program. These are the two ways we generally share our statistics, because we don’t have a formal report or document that we publish anywhere. However some programs do take the time to create a report, such as the Snapshot of Hunger report done by the Daily Bread Food Bank.

While looking through the report they compiled I found it interesting to see the similarities between the statistics we’re both calculating for the patrons accessing our programs. Many of our patrons would also fit the demographics that the Daily Bread Food Bank is encountering in the GTA region.

However it’s hard to know for sure how similar our patrons are because the Daily Bread Food Bank asks some more in-depth questions than we do here. Although by doing this they get a better picture of some of the barriers and challenges that people are facing in low-income households, which can leave you with a lot to think about.

Personally I spent a lot of time reflecting on the Hunger portion of the report because I was saddened to read a lot of those statistics, such as “forty percent of adults go hungry at least once per week” when we live in such a wealthy country. Even though I interact with people here every day that are in this same situation, it still doesn’t get any easier to hear that so many people cannot afford to have a nutritiously balanced diet. Also it’s not easy to face the facts that approximately half of the people accessing food assistance are single people.

Another statistic that their report shared is about income. Income can be an important piece for food assistance because some food hamper programs operate on a means test that calculates how many hampers a household is eligible for based on their income. Though neither of our programs request to know a dollar amount for those who are accessing food assistance, we do ask to know what type of income the household is receiving.

The two most common income responses are Ontario works (OW) or Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). The Daily Bread Food Bank reports that approximately 67 percent of their patrons are receiving social assistance, while our program states that approximately 37% are on Ontario Works. And approximately 45 percent of food bank patrons are receiving ODSP. One of the main reasons this is so significant is because the demand for our services by people receiving these types of income assistant programs will only continue to grow as commodity prices continue to rise faster than the payment increases for people receiving financial assistance does. This is a startling statistic that the report publishes to keep people aware of the challenges that people receiving food assistance are facing.

One of the final statistics in the report focuses on housing, which is a big challenge for people living in lower incomes for a variety of reasons. One of the biggest challenges is affordability. Many individuals accessing food banks are living on fixed incomes and with rising prices of rent and other utilities it can be increasingly challenging to find something adequate in size and affordable. Some of the patrons to the Daily Bread Food Bank spend approximately 72 percent of their income on rent and utilities – with a median monthly income of $925. If you want to show your support to make a change in this area, please click here to add your name to the call for an Ontario Housing Benefit.

Showing your support to increase the availability of affordable housing is one way to promote a better future for people in low-income households. But if adding your name to the call for a housing benefit isn’t your thing, there are still a number of things you can do. You can stay educated; you can share the stories you hear about the people in need; and you can talk to your local government to make changes. Then perhaps one day many of these statistical reports can be put to the history books instead of the newspapers.

Global conversation about food

September 1, 2011

“Food is one of life’s greatest pleasures and one of our most basic human rights. It’s important we all get involved in the debate about how to change the global food system so everyone has enough to eat today and in the future.” – Raymond Offenheiser, President of Oxfam. (Source)

This quote comes from an article posted on Oxfam that looks at an independent study done by GlobeScan that was collected from 17 countries around the world and a total of over 16 000 people. Each person was asked about their dietary habits and if anything has changed over the years because of the rising food prices, health changes, or any other influential factors.

Oxfam released this study on their website as part of their GROW campaign. This campaign is dedicated to promoting a better future for everyone, which starts by supporting solutions to solving hunger issues, and encouraging government to get involved in preserving resources or creating better policies. Basically the campaign is looking for people to get motivated NOW; instead of when the next disaster occurs. Their goal is to change things for the better, before food insecure situations get any worse. (Click here if you’re interested in joining their campaign.)

One of the results discussed in the survey looks at the fact that many people, in both rich and poor countries, are already reducing the quality and quantities of food they consume. As food prices continue to rise many people can no longer afford some of the foods they previously enjoyed in the past. Instead people in poorer countries are often accommodating to food prices by eating less food overall, eating cheaper food items, or eating a less varied diet. The study noted that women, specifically mothers, tend to change their eating habits more than other family members. You can read about this in more detail by clicking here.

There are a variety of reasons why many people are beginning to change the types and quantities of the foods that they typically consume. All of these are outlined in more detail in the article. However there are a few statistics that I want to share with you because I find them very interesting:

  • Percentage of people who have changed their diet because of rising food prices: 39% globally and 31% in the US.
  • Percentage of people who have altered their diet for health reasons: 33% globally and 49% in the US.
  • Percentage of people who are worried about the rising costs of food: 66% globally and 73% of those in the US.
  • Percentage of people who said that they sometimes, rarely or never had enough to eat on a regular basis: 20% of people globally and 8% of Americans.

Overall our statistics aren’t far off from many of the other countries in the world. Food prices and food security are an increasingly troublesome problem for a wider variety of people. You may remember some of the previous posts that we did on rising food prices back in May and June – but click here if you missed them.

Well to no ones surprise this is still a current issue in the news and something that I’m sure we’ll continue to experience as uncertainty about the global economy continues. Though food is necessary for human survival, we still have a long way to go to ensure equal access for everyone. Until we can find a solution to this long-term issue, food banks will continue to work diligently to provide all these individuals with a few days of food to help them temporarily overcome one of their many challenges.