‘In many ways, food banks are like the paramedics of social support’ – Feed Ontario Hunger Report 2022

city_scope_logo-cmykA coalition of hunger relief organizations in Ontario says 2022 marked the sixth straight year that food banks in the province saw an increase in users and visits.
Feed Ontario says 587,000 adults and children visited the province’s food banks a total of 4.3 million times between April 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022.
An increase of 15 per cent over the last three years.
The organization says in its most recent annual report that the troubling trend appeared to escalate during the most recent year on record.
It’s no different at the St. Thomas Elgin Food Bank, confirms general manager Karen McDade.
“It is trending upward. It’s probably up since 2019 or even pre-COVID, 53 per cent the demand has gone up at the St. Thomas Elgin Food Bank, easily.”
And that increase in demand has resulted in a change in policy at the St. Thomas Elgin Food Bank, explains McDade.
“The cost of food, fuel, housing, it has just inflated so much that it is just very difficult for any of our clients to survive. We’ve stuck to a mandate of still doing the hampers that we hand out monthly, but instead of a 30-day timeframe, now it’s 21 days.”
McDade adds there are some weeks when the local food bank is helping to feed 400 to 500 people.
And that used to be the monthly total, she notes.

On the positive side, food and monetary donations are remaining steady.
“Donations have been pretty good. During COVID, we tended to maybe get more monetary (donations) but that was due to the fact everything was closed down.
Feed Ontario Hunger Report 2022“But food and monetary donations are pretty steady considering a lot of people are hurting right now. We do have a really generous community and we’re pretty lucky that way.”
Thanks to a quota system with various producer groups, the food bank can keep shelves fairly well stocked.
“Between Feed Ontario and Food Banks Canada, they have programs out there constantly. We are still receiving maybe not as large of a quota because expenses have gone up for everyone but we still receive our milk quota twice a month from the Dairy Farmers of Ontario.
“We still receive our chicken from Chicken Farmers of Ontario. They’ll send us a pallet of frozen chicken. Egg Farmers of Ontario, that’s quarterly.
“The grocery stores have been pretty darned good about supporting us and allowing me to price match when I’m able to because I’m ordering cases of everything and not just single items.”
McDade appreciates the support from local grocery stores that supply food items instead of throwing them out due to best-before dates.
“There are programs out there to rescue food in a safe manner. I belong to a couple of programs where every item when it’s coming to date in certain grocery stores they flash freeze it immediately. For bread, baked goods and meat, that normally would have gone in the landfill and now it’s going to help feed the people.
“And that trend is going through all of the grocery store outlets and COBS Bakery that just opened, they are absolutely wonderful.
“She won’t sell anything she made the day before, she’ll support us with fresh bread and then we can, in turn, freeze them.
“We’re very lucky and our grocery stores are very generous and the churches and organizations throughout St. Thomas holding events, be it a fundraiser or a food drive. This is the time of year, definitely, so we’re very busy with that.”
McDade reminds there are numerous other resources available to people in St. Thomas.
“You know, we’re open all year and the demand is getting higher due to inflation. I would say with Christmas Care, they are coming along for Christmas and they, in turn, are helping people with their Christmas hamper. That, in turn, helps us, also.
“We have excellent resources in St. Thomas for people to obtain free meals from the churches, Grace Cafe and schools getting help, too.”
McDade notes in a recent week, seven new clients approached the food bank.
“We’re having a lot of new clients. In one week we received seven brand new clients who have moved to the area or immigrated to the area.
“When you’re first starting out, you’ve got your first and last month rent and . . . just the price of groceries. A head of lettuce can be five to eight dollars. It’s just gone off the books compared to what it used to be in years gone by.”
The food bank started as The Caring Cupboard in 1986.
Read more about the Feed Ontario report here.


City council gets its first look at the proposed 2023 budget Monday evening and members will have to be prepared to do some trimming if they want to duplicate last year’s hike to the municipal property tax levy of 2.35 per cent.
As it stands now, the increase in 2023 would be 2.87 per cent with a proposed levy of just under $65 million, up almost $3 million from this year.
Keep in mind a one per cent change in the municipal tax levy equals $620,655.
2023 proposed budgetThe biggest driver in the levy is an increase in contractual wages and benefits of $1.5 million followed by $1.3 million in wages and benefits for new hires.
Taking a quick overview of individual departments, the proposed 2023 expenditures for the mayor and council are up about 5.57 per cent over this year due to “slight increases in salaries and benefits and car allowance stipends for the mayor and council members.”
Quite a proposed hike in the city manager’s budget of 35 per cent due to the hiring of a Strategic Initiatives Manager and an Administrative and Communications assistant, although funds for the latter “were allocated from a previous administrative position.”
In the clerk’s department, there is a 6.23 per cent drop over this year. The budget includes funding “for the addition of a staff member, Deputy City Clerk, to ensure continuity of legislated responsibilities, including records management and to provide additional assistance to the customer service function.”
In the treasury department, the increase is a shade over 7 per cent with the note that the corporate insurance rate will drop by 27 per cent due to a change in insurance companies and the city has finally fulfilled its $3.5 million commitment to the hospital expansion.
The Valleyview budget is up by more than 12 per cent, which includes the salary of a new HR position filled this year but funding not included in the 2022 budget.
With the police service, the budget increase is 6.37 per cent which includes salary increases of 2.65 per cent for uniform members and 2 per cent for civilians. Six officers are currently off on WSIB and five of those vacancies are filled at a cost of $643,000 which accounts for 4.68 per cent of the overall 2023 increase.

“with the increased clean up of (homeless) encampments throughout the city, staff require additional health and safety supplies to perform the work safely.”

In fire services, the budget increase is 10.17 per cent with the note salary and benefits representing approximately 94 per cent of the department’s annual budget. The overtime budget for 2022 is just under $600,000 while $420,000 was budgeted. For 2023 $420,000 is again budgeted so the new chief and deputy chief have their work cut out for them.
Environmental services see an increase of 3.58 per cent due to “significant inflationary impacts, some council approved increase in level of service in transit and several approved conversions of staff from multiple part times in a full-time position to address labour shortages.”
The recreation budget is up by 7.2 per cent as a result of “increased cost of labour, fuel, supplies, utilities, contractor costs and an adjustment to staff needs regarding supplies for camps, etc.”

“if the EDC is to continue to service the community at the level that has become expected (including taking on the Horton Farmers’ Market), additional human resources will be required.”

With parks, it’s a 4.6 per cent increase mostly due to the above increase in the recreation budget. It is noted, “with the increased clean up of (homeless) encampments throughout the city, staff require additional health and safety supplies to perform the work safely.”
In the property maintenance end, the increase is 19 per cent, in part due to wages and benefits.
The planning department budget is up just over 21 per cent the result of an “increases in salaries and benefits due to a new full-time staff position being proposed.”
Social services see an increase of 3.6 per cent due mainly to wages and benefits.
The Valleyview budget increases by almost 8.5 per cent due to wages and benefits plus supply price increases.
In the library, the budget increase is a modest 2.7 per cent.
At the Economic Development Corporation, the hike is 16.7 per cent with the note “if the EDC is to continue to service the community at the level that has become expected (including taking on the Horton Farmers’ Market), additional human resources will be required.”


On the very last pages of Monday’s council agenda is a copy of a letter from the Kettle Creek Conservation Authority (KCCA) to MPP Rob Flack.
It deals with Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act.
An act that further guts the province’s conservation authorities.
According to an analysis of Bill 23 by Max Laskin and Zachary Fleisher at Goodmans LLP, the bill would narrow the scope of the conservation authority roles in the land development process.
“For example, while conservation authorities are currently permitted to provide services on behalf of municipalities with respect to matters within its scope of expertise, Bill 23 would prohibit conservation authorities from reviewing and commenting on a proposal, application or other matter under legislation to be prescribed by regulation.”
The authors continue, “this amendment would effectively remove conservation authorities as commenting agencies in respect of development applications.

“Watershed planning, the hallmark of Ontario’s conservation authorities, would be severely diminished, to be replaced with piecemeal planning by over 400 individual municipalities.”

“The bill would also provide that prohibitions on carrying out development activities in regulated areas such as hazardous lands, wetlands, rivers or stream valleys would not apply within certain prescribed municipalities if the activity is part of development authorized under the Planning Act and certain conditions to be set out in regulations are satisfied.
“In addition, conservation authorities would no longer have authority to withhold a permit on the basis that the activity is likely to affect pollution or the conservation of land.”
Ontario Nature warns “more power is stripped from conservation authorities.”
It notes, “conservation authority permits would no longer be required for development projects approved under the Planning Act.”
These permits cover such areas as the taking of water, interference with rivers, creeks, streams, watercourses, wetlands, flood or erosion control.
Ontario Nature goes on to warn conservation authorities “would in effect be prohibited from providing municipalities with the expert advice and information they need on environmental and natural heritage matters.
“Watershed planning, the hallmark of Ontario’s conservation authorities, would be severely diminished, to be replaced with piecemeal planning by over 400 individual municipalities.”
Mayor Joe Preston has stressed St. Thomas needs to embrace smart growth when it comes to residential and industrial development.
His comments on the KCCA letter to MPP Rob Flack will be of great interest.


Assuming the motion is approved Monday (Dec. 5) by council, the city will again offer free New Year’s Eve transit service.
In addition, there will be free overnight on-street parking.
The bus service will be offered from 9:45 p.m. on Dec. 31 until 3:15 on New Year’s Day.
The free transit service consists of a demand-responsive transit service that will pick up and drop off from the requested bus stop to a bus stop.
In past years, two buses have been able to cover this service.
The cost of the service is included in the Environmental Services operating budget.

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And a reminder, I can be heard weekday afternoons as news anchor and reporter on 94.1 myFM in St. Thomas. As always, your comments and input are appreciated.


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