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Seniors and Canadians with disabilities forced to rely on food banks

A growing number of seniors are relying on food banks (Getty)
A growing number of seniors are relying on food banks (Getty)

Despite a strong job market and a healthy economy, more of Canada’s most vulnerable are still forced to rely on food banks.

According to new data from Food Banks Canada, its 4,934 facilities were visited 1,084,000 times over the past year. At 48 per cent, the proportion of visits from people living alone hit an all-time high.

“The single-household economy is clearly not doing so well. It seems the range of benefits provided to people who live alone is limited. In addition, most food bank users this year have some income, including several with student loans or those receiving a pension,” said Sylvain Charlebois, scientific director of Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, in a release.

Over the last three years, food bank use by people over 65 increased by nearly 30 per cent — the fastest rising age group.

Because seniors are usually on fixed incomes, they are more vulnerable to price spikes for rent and food. Healthcare needs, like prescription drugs, compound the impact. Many of them also happen to live alone.

“In order to curb it, we have to recognize that in-kind supports, such as complete health and drug coverage, are important for seniors as are increased income supports,” Chris Hatch, CEO of Food Banks Canada, told Yahoo Finance Canada.

“Which is why we recommend all low-income households have access to the non-cash benefits that are currently only available to those on social assistance [such as affordable housing supplements, drug and dental insurance], as well as a national comprehensive prescription drug coverage plan [pharmacare].”

Food bank use by people with disabilities is also on the rise.

“An increasing number are having to rely on provincial disability assistance as their main source of income across the country,” said Hatch.

“And while the amounts vary from province to province, in general the incomes provided by the program aren't even close to keeping up with the rising costs of living, having declined by over 10 per cent compared to 30 years ago.”

Children represented 34 per cent of all food bank visits over the past twelve months, which is about the same as last year.

Jessy Bains is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jessysbains.

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