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Local food bank asks region to double funding after seeing 'concerning' rise in usage


Residents across Canada are more food insecure than ever according to new data from Food Banks Canada Hungercount.

It's no different locally. The Food Bank of Waterloo Region is seeing the most usage of food assistance programs in its 40 year history.

"It’s really concerning that month over month we continue to see record breaking numbers," Kim Wilhelm, the interim chief executive officer of the Food Bank of Waterloo Region said.

According to the food bank, visits have increased 47 per cent since last year, jumping from over 294,000 visits accessing food assistance between January 1 to October 26, 2022 to more than 432,000 visits in that same stretch of time this year. The food bank said one in 20 households accessed programs in 2021. That number was one in 14 last year. Now, one in ten need help.

"Income is also not keeping pace with the cost of living. So we have individuals who are," Wilhelm said.

It's also seeing new people using it with a nearly 41 per cent increase in unique individuals.

"Pre-COVID we were spending about 200,000 on food purchase. We're going to likely end our fiscal year spending about two million dollars just to keep up with the continued growing demand," Wilhelm said.

According to the food bank, it receives about $744,000 annually from the Region of Waterloo.

That money is shared with local agencies helping with food assistance. Now the food bank is asking to increase the funding to $1.6 million dollars.

"I can't really predict what is going to happen in the budget but I need to say that this is a very important support for people throughout the community," Karen Redman, Chair of the Region of Waterloo said.

Regional council is still debating the 2024 budget. The final budget day is set for Dec. 13.

"There will be discussions, there will be tradeoffs. There's people that will be really worried about grass cutting, about transit. There's a whole lot of very important things that need to be discussed during the budget. But I personally really support the food bank," Redman said.

Ahead of the final budget day discussions, there will be opportunities for residents to have their say about how they want tax dollars to be spent. Public input meetings will be held on Nov. 2 and Nov. 29. Top Stories

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