A new report released by Food Banks Canada shows more people are relying on food banks than ever before, including those living Waterloo region.

The executive director of the Cambridge Food Bank, Dianne McLeod, said there’s been more than a 30 per cent increase in demand compared to pre-pandemic times.

“It’s definitely the highest I’ve seen in my 21 years at the food bank,” McLeod said. “They are paying a lot of their income toward rent, fuel and their dollars at the grocery store aren’t going as far as they’re used to.”

It’s a reality Silvana Cortez knows too well. She has been using the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank since she came to Canada from Peru in 2014. She said fresh fruits and vegetables are a “must-grab”.

“If I don’t use this I just have to rely on eating whatever is at the dollar store,” she admitted. “With inflation, it doesn't make it easier so I’m back again.”

According to Food Banks Canada, high inflation, low social assistance rates and housing costs are among the factors being blamed for the increased demand.

“More people than ever before in the history of food banks in this country are relying on our support to put food on the table,” said Kristin Beardsley, the CEO of Food Banks Canada.

Food Banks Canada’s annual Hunger Counts report showed

about 1.5 million people used food banks in March 2022 – up 35 per cent compared to pre-pandemic. More seniors and students are now depending on food banks – up two percent since 2019 and up two per cent since 2020 respectively. 45.4 per cent are from single-person households. One-third of users are children.

“We’re seeing a 44 per cent increase in total visits to those accessing food assistance programs,” said Kim Wilhelm, the interim CEO of the Food Bank of Waterloo Region.

Food bank staff said they are grateful for anyone who can donate food or money and said to ensure change communities should address long-term solutions to poverty.