Ontario Food Banks As A Measure of Housing Insecurity

Labelled shelves hold a variety of cans of food.
Food bank cupboard photo by Staffs Live is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
A widespread and growing need for food banks indicts political systems which can, but will not, feed their most vulnerable citizens.

3.2 million food bank visits in Ontario in the year before the pandemic: it’s a hint of the scale of crisis approaching as we move towards a second year of pandemic job loss.1

If you’re housing insecure, you may well not be able to afford enough food for yourself or your family, never mind the threat of impending eviction if you cannot pay your rent.2

Food banks, rather than grocery purchase, may help keep the wolf from changing the locks on your door. 85% of food bank users pay either market rent or social rent, with the remainder paying off mortgages. Of this combined group, fully half are worried about eviction from housing for non payment, or about defaulting on a mortgage.

Food bank visitor numbers were increasing before the pandemic. Why? And how will the further effects of the pandemic impact upon both food banks and their users? Read more at CityNews: Feed Ontario’s Hunger Report shows fear of eviction rising for low-income families


  1. Food insecurity goes back a long way in Canada. The first food bank opened in 1981 in Edmonton, Alberta. Mel Hurtig, a Canadian author, chose Pay The Rent Or Feed The Kids, as the title for his book, which was published in 2000. In 2020, before the pandemic arrived in force in Canada, there were over 3,000 food banks.
  2. In Ontario, housing and food costs are so connected that official counts of food insecurity include consideration of housing costs. Public Health Dieticians in Ontario have just updated their position statement on food insecurity. Their document draws out the health consequences of food insecurity and calls for actions to raise income levels for people who cannot afford food and housing. Read the position paper at Ontario Dieticians in Public Health: Position Statement and Recommendations on Responses to Food Insecurity

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