Posts Tagged ‘statistics’

Getting down to business

September 23, 2011

Ontario is a province with a wide variety of employment options for a number of people. Each day many people go in to work never thinking they’ll be injured. But as the statistics show, this reality is closer than many of us would think. Let’s take a second to look at some of the facts:

  • Annually about 300 people die and nearly 270 000 more file workers’ compensation claims due to a work related injury or illness. (Source)
  • Each year over 10 000 Ontarians under the age of 25 submit a claim after an injury leaves them unable to return to work for a few days. (Source)
  • In 2008 alone, Ontario reported 488 fatalities and 317 031 claims for work related injuries and illnesses to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). (Source)
  • The injury rates of workers may be much higher because many workers don’t bring the injury to the attention of their employer, or the employer doesn’t submit a claim to WSIB. (Source)

Unfortunately Ronald is living proof of these statistics. After an injury at work, he’s waiting for his claim to be approved by the WSIB board. So in the mean time he’s coming to our program for assistance. It’s likely that he’ll use the six visits we offer in a year within the next month or two; because his family is without an income for a few weeks and can’t wait that long to buy groceries.

I’m a father and husband to a family of five. When people learn that I’m using a food bank they always ask “how did that happen?” or look at me wondering why I can’t find a job to provide for my family. Well I was working at a factory and had 800 pounds of product fall on me. Now I’m lucky to be alive; but it hasn’t been easy. It took the doctors eight years before they realized that the intense pain in my back meant that it was broken. No one would believe me, so it was hard to get any type of compensation. I struggled to convince the doctors that there was something wrong…and when they finally got the medical proof they needed, I was immediately booked in for a surgery. After that my back healed to the point that I was able to continue working at a different job. But as my luck should have it, I had another accident at work and here we are again. As hard as I try to put food on the table, something eventually gets in the way. Then we need to come here for a food hamper until we can figure out where our next paycheck is coming from.

Put yourself into Ronald’s shoes, this is your story now.  After your accident you aren’t even able to work light duty at any of your old jobs. Each one was very labour intensive and your employers are less than understanding. As a result you have now burned through the little amount of vacation pay you had accumulated; and neither job gave any paid sick days so now you have no income.

On top of this your extended family doesn’t support your decision to not return to work after your injuries. Many of them stopped visiting over a year ago because they didn’t want to hear you complain about the injury the doctors couldn’t find. To date, no one has responded to any calls or emails that the doctors finally discovered your back was actually broken.

What do you do? How many weeks could you go without a paycheck? Who would you turn to for help?

It is no surprise that Ronald was directed to our program for assistance. But his family will likely need help paying for school supplies, buying the kids clothes, and paying their rent at the end of the month. So to do all of this Ronald now has a new “job”. His job is to shuffle through the phone book and talk to a variety of people who will point him in various directions to find the services and support he needs to get through this difficult time. Though he may use the 211 services to find the right direction, he’ll still be left at the end of the day with a stack of papers from a variety of social service agencies that he’s come in contact with. And his family can only hope that each agency visit will bring them another step closer to the end of this unfortunate limbo between incomes.


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.

Right to Food

August 26, 2011

Most people will have heard of the United Nations.  Especially if you watch the news.  I’m not sure if as many people will have heard of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.   Even fewer have probably heard of the Rome Declaration on Food Security and the Declaration of the Rights of the Child.

What are these documents and what do they mean?  In a perfect world they commit the countries that have signed them (which Canada has) to address the needs of their residents and ensure that their human rights are protected and promoted.

What are human rights?  That’s a big question.  I encourage you to read through the links above and try and get a handle on how important they are.  Ones that you may be familiar with are freedom of expression, freedom of thought and freedom of opinion.  These are the rights that we all enjoy in Canada every day. You enjoy them every day you open a newspaper, talk to your neighbours about politics and make choices on who to vote for and how you live your life.

Is food a human right?  It’s pretty hard to live your life without food.  Of all the human rights, food is one of biggest and most important.  It is difficult to enjoy your other rights if you’re starving.

If you read this blog, a newspaper or watch the news, you will probably realize that these documents are all great on paper, but in practice we’ve still got a long haul ahead of us as a Country and a global community. We say we’re committed to overcoming hunger, but yet there are still many people who go to bed hungry everyday: in this country and across the world.

The above picture is taken from one of the nineteen artists that contributed to the “Just Food” exhibit that is being displayed through the support and faith inspired efforts of the Mennonite Central Committee Ontario (MCCO). Some of you may be aware of this exhibit, since it’s been open since early July. But if you have yet to go, it’s not too late! The exhibit will be available until September 27 at Conrad Grebel University College anytime Monday to Friday between 9am to 7pm, or through alternative arrangements. (Click here for a map to the college.)

The inspiration for this event is to encourage people to remember that though we’ve stated hunger is not acceptable in many formal documents, we’ve still got a long way to go to make this a reality.

“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food.” – Article 25 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Food is a central part of our lives: it’s part of survival and it’s also something that is often prepared to bring people together in celebration. Though as human beings we need to eat to survive, in today’s society we’re not always guaranteed access to affordable and nutritious food for various reasons.

Food banks are living proof of this: once a temporary solution to overcome (what was thought to be) a short-term problem, many of these programs need to expand their warehouses to keep up with the demands of service that they face each week, day and year. Things have yet to get better as many Canadians continue to struggle to meet their daily needs, or encounter unexpected circumstances that throw their life and finances for a loop.

To give you a better idea as to how high our numbers have been, and show some of the factors that may be contributing to high demands for food assistance, lets look at some of the statistics about food banks.

  • In the last twenty years our program hasn’t served under 20 000 hampers each year.
  • Each year our program assists approximately 9 500 households with food. (And we only cover Kitchener-Waterloo. To see a list with some of the Cambridge food assistance programs, click here.)
  • We are one of over 70 member agencies of the Food Bank of Waterloo Region, which means that there are a lot of agencies responding to the communities need for food assistance.
  • Approximately half the households who we provided food to last year relied on Ontario works (OW) or Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) as a source of income. People working full-time, part-time, or odd jobs followed as the next highest group at approximately 16 percent.

So hopefully you can take a break to visit the hunger exhibit. Because as it’s recently been said, and will be said again, hunger and food banks are something that need to come to an end. (To read an article about closing food banks, click here.) Your effort to become more educated is one of the first steps to making this happen; and this event is a fun way to take that first step.

In the coming weeks we will share a few more of the stories of the people who have turned to us for a helping hand. In the meantime, enjoy the food for thought at Conrad Grebel.

Why we fight hunger

April 15, 2011

Time is not measured by the years that we live. But by the deeds that we do and the joys that we give.  – Helen Steiner Rice


Putting the final touches on packing a hamper for one of the many families we served today.

Volunteer appreciation week is coming to an end today.  For the last two weeks we’ve tried to highlight the different ways that volunteers make a difference here. We’ve really enjoyed this opportunity to share some of the joy to be had each week working together with this amazing group of people.

I wanted to finish the week with a few words from someone we helped in March:

“Thank you for all your hard work and the time you put into making food hampers available for us.  Asking for the extra help has been hard, but I know you are there to help when I need it most…”

March was full of surprises again.  While January and February this year were a little slower than last year, March decided it would break more records, and yet again, we packed the most hampers ever in a single month, coming out at 3 313 hampers (versus 3 305 last year) to 2 850 households made up of over 6 600 people.

It’s not a huge increase over last year, but it was a lot of very busy days spent trying to keep up with the phone calls and requests by family after family.  If we didn’t have volunteers, would we be able to help that many people?

No.  It’s pretty simple. Those people would have to make do with less, or even nothing, since we would have probably had to turn them away empty-handed.

Volunteers have built this program up, they keep it running, and they make sure the job gets done.  It’s never easy for a person to walk in here and ask for help; last year a woman told us that it took her three days to build up the courage to walk through our door after the initial call to set up a file.  However that was after the two months it took her friends and family to finally convince her to call in the first place.

When she left she knew that she wasn’t alone.  Our volunteers will be there to help when times are tough.

Volunteer Spotlight: Tracey

April 7, 2011

Recently Tracey celebrated her six month anniversary of volunteering, since she started in October. Over these months Tracy has volunteered for more than 50 hours!

Today I found Tracey unloading a skid of cabbage and lettuce, which is a change of pace from her regular role as a hamper packer. However Tracey comes to us with a great enthusiasm to help people, and doesn’t mind doing whatever task we have to accomplish from our to-do list. So today I asked Tracey to take a break so I could ask her a few questions to share with all of our lovely blog readers: (more…)

Volunteer Spotlight: Roy

April 6, 2011

Around here Roy is no stranger to our program, as he’s been volunteering since September of 2005. He’s often a quiet and hard-working volunteer, but today I got him to open up a little bit so we could boast about him a little bit. To start I can tell you that he’s provided us with over 625 hours of help during his time with us. And now onto more wonderful facts about this volunteer: (more…)

Volunteer Spotlight: Inder

April 5, 2011

January is a busy time of the year for our program, but we’re never too busy to accept volunteers! Inder is just one example of this, as he began volunteering here around mid-January. Currently he’s volunteered for approximately 60 hours! And what’s even better is that he’s recruited some of his friends to also volunteer here. Hopefully in the next few weeks I’ll be able to spotlight some of the people he’s brought here, but in the mean time let’s focus on him: (more…)

Volunteer Spotlight: Zach

April 4, 2011

I’m here to share another fresh face in our volunteer pool: Zach. Zach began volunteering with us this year, in between searching for a job that will suit his interests after recently finishing his degree in Environment Engineering. Zach brings a lot of enthusiasm when he volunteers here by always being ready to pack a hamper, by lending a helping hand in the warehouse, or by getting to know other volunteers. So far it’s been great getting to casually chat with Zach in the break room, but today it’s his turn to shine in the spotlight. (more…)

Volunteer Spotlight: Bruce

March 30, 2011

Here we have a brief snap shot of one of the many loads Bruce often lugs around the warehouse for us. We’re fortunate to see Bruce come in to volunteer with us twice a week in the mornings. He’s a huge help in getting us ready for our morning rush to serve hampers when we open at eleven.

Bruce has been volunteering with us for since December of 2002 – that’s almost ten years! In these ten years he’s volunteered for approximately 1 800 hours! That’s a big commitment, which isn’t slowing down because he’s already volunteered more than fifty hours this year alone! So to honor his dedication over all these years we wanted to take this chance to show you a little bit more about this wonderful volunteer.

How did you hear about House of Friendship?

“When I started it was to come in with my son to help him get his high school community service hours. He’s been out of high school for quite a while, which means I’m probably coming up on my ten years now since I remember getting a five-year certificate for volunteering at an appreciation dinner a few years ago…I’ve seen a lot of people come and go here.”

Why is volunteering important to you?

“Probably because it allows me to help others, which makes me feel good. This is a rewarding experience because I’m doing something that makes a difference for people in emergency situations. Also it helps that you’re able to meet a variety of people.”

How has volunteering made an impact in your life?

“It’s opened my eyes to the number of needy people in our community. I never imagined that a food hamper program would serve so many hampers each day. Also I’ve learned more about the many different branches of House of Friendship. This is a huge organization full of a lot of good programs.”

On average this year we’ve provided approximately 159 hampers each day that we’re open. However it’s important to note that some days we’ve distributed over 200 hampers, while a few other days we’ve barely hit 100.

To read more about the various programs within House of Friendship, click here.

What’s your favourite job at our program?

“That’s a tough question, but probably bagging mushrooms…There’s no particular reason for it though.”

What kind of activities or hobbies do you enjoy when you’re not volunteering here?

“I volunteer to help maintain an ice rink in Waterloo near my house throughout the winter. Also I help my neighbours by shoveling their driveways in the winter. But since that’s over, I’ll start helping some of my neighbours out by mowing their lawns. And I’ll keep busy with friends and family, and going hunting and fishing occasionally.”

Wow so not only is Bruce super-helpful at our program, he’s also an asset around his neighbourhood. And to quote him one final time, “if you’re thinking about volunteering, you should just do it. It’s amazing what you’ll learn.” Well said Bruce!