LifeCorps Food Share 2015 Hunger Count Results

Every March Food Banks Canada hosts the national Hunger Count Survey.  According to Food Banks Canada, the HungerCount Report is:

“The only comprehensive study of food bank use in Canada.  It offers a snapshot of the people helped by food banks and other charitable food programs, looks at the causes of hunger and food insecurity, and offers recommendations to reduce hunger.”

For more information, click the following link:

All our member agencies are required to provide hunger count statistics for the month of March only. The final results of the survey is found in the charts below.

Member Agencies Adults Served Children Served Total Served
10- Food Pantry’s 3250 1771 5021
14-Food Closets 1557 359 1916
Totals 4807 2130 6937
Meal Programs Total Meals in March Total Snacks in March Total Snacks and Meals
17 Members 15,480 4,285 19,765

Compared to last year, with the King Food Bank not reporting, our food pantries are serving 1.1% more unique individuals, with 31.26% fewer visits per month, and 38% of the total unique individuals served were children under 18 years of age.

If we multiply the data by 12 (visits per month), our food pantry members are booking 83,244 visits per year, and our meal programs are providing 237,180 meals and snacks per year.

With each food pantry providing approximately 9 meals per person, the food pantries are providing 749,196 meals per year.  Add the meal programs, and our membership is providing 986,376 meals per year.

In 2014, LifeCorps Food Share collected and delivered $1,036,776 in food, which breaks down to 207,355 meals ($5 p/meal), which was 20.71% of all the meals provided by our members.

This report only includes our membership.  Not all community food pantries are members.  Non-members include the Vaughan Food Bank, King Food Bank and the Whitchurch/Stouffville Food Bank.

For more information, please call our office at 905-770-5433.

2015 Participating Members

Food Pantries:  Newmarket Food Pantry, Markham Food Bank, Richmond Hill and Community Food Bank, Georgina and Community Food Pantry, Aurora Food Pantry, Humanity First Food Bank, Master’s Pantry and Mount Albert Food Bank.  Food Closets: Sutton Youth Shelter, Rose of Sharon, Catch the Fire-Newmarket, John Fitzpatrick Steelworker’s Co-operative, Landsberg/Lewis Co-operative, Newmarket Co- operative, Crescent Village Co-operative, Hamilton Place, Aurora Village Co-operative, Genesis Place Apartments, German Canadian Place, Fairy Lake Gardens, Parkfarm Co-operative, Tom Taylor Place, Charles Darrow Co-operative, Royal Oak Manor.  Meal Programs: Christian Horizons York 5 and 8, Sandgate Women’s Shelter, The Welcome Table, Valleyview Alliance Church, CHATS Richmond Hill, CHATS Aurora, The Loft-Street Outreach, STEPS Recovery, Out of the Cold (Richmond Hill United Church), York Region Food Network, Teen Challenge, 360 Kids, Blue Door Shelters, Yellow Brick House, Women’s Centre of York Region, Inn From the Cold.


Which term is most relevant in York Region?……Hunger or Food Insecurity?

I’ve been to Guatemala about a dozen times between the years of 1986 to 2012. My first three trips were during their civil war that saw over 200,000 people (mostly indigenous) murdered by their own government. I believed that during those trips I was able to see hunger firsthand. So by comparison, I did not think that Canadians suffered hunger or poverty. The dictionary meaning of hunger is……. “a compelling need or desire for food. The painful sensation or state of weakness caused by the need of food. A shortage of food; famine.”……. I thought that hunger always equalled famine. However, by definition it could just be the desire for food. Well, I have a desire for food all the time. Does that make me hungry? By definition, yes. Did I ever have a “compelling” desire for food? Yes. Did I ever have a painful sensation? Yes. Was I ever in a state of weakness caused by the need of food? Yes. Did I ever suffer famine? No.
Since we operate the York Regional food bank, I had a need to know the difference between hunger and food insecurity . When attempting to create a slogan for our program, the word “hunger” always sounded better than the phrase “food insecurity”. What is food insecurity? The definition of “food insecurity” is……… “the state of being without access to sufficient quantity of affordable nutritious food”…….. I’ve never suffered that. I have gone up to ten days without solid food. It’s called fasting. I didn’t suffer food insecurity because at any time I could reach into my fridge or go to the grocery store and buy whatever I wanted. So I’ve been hungry, but never suffered food insecurity.
Doesn’t food insecurity sound a lot like malnutrition? Well let’s see. The World Food Programme ( says that “Even when people get enough to eat, they will become malnourished if the food they eat does not provide the proper amounts of micronutrients-vitamins and minerals to meet daily nutritional requirements”. If the average rate of food insecure individuals in Ontario is 14%, then there are many Ontarians that are “malnourished”. In York Region, that would be about 154,000 people (14% of 1.1 Million people= 154,000).
After two years of operating our Food Share Program I was still unsure if we were really making a difference in our community. We collected food, nutritious food, and delivered the food to our members, but I didn’t see them eat it. For all I knew, everyone could have been throwing out the food. Some members would refuse food if they knew they wouldn’t be using it, which is much appreciated. When they didn’t want our offering, most would politely say “Please give that to someone who needs it”.
One Saturday morning, there was a lady who made me a real believer in our program. A couple of our members house seniors. Delivery day in these seniors’ buildings is a big deal. Almost all the residents of each building come down for the food distribution. In one of these buildings, there was a thin elderly lady that would sit near the front door and watch me bring food into the lobby for distribution. She didn’t say a word for weeks, just watched me work. One day she broke her silence by saying “Oh, I get to eat today”. Immediately tears began to well up in my eyes and to save my embarrassment for being a sissy, I just smiled and continued to work. She was suffering from food insecurity. Since I brought food that day, she was able to access food and feed herself.
So, are people hungry in our region? Yes. Are people suffering from food insecurity in York Region? Absolutely. Are people malnourished in our region? Yes. Which word is most relevant in our region? Hunger or food insecurity? The answer is yes.
Alex Bilotta
Executive Director

The Perception of Need in York Region

I was speaking with a reporter from the York Region Media Group this week and I couldn’t help being left with the notion that people’s perception of need , meaning hunger, in York Region is skewed.

On Monday December 1, the Ontario Association of Food Banks released their annual Hunger Report.  Provincial food bank usage is down slightly this year over last year, but still higher than pre-recessionary days.  In York Region, the number has risen by five percent.  The reporter felt that there wasn’t a story in this.  I was surprised.

We know that there’s a big problem with food insecurity in York Region.  This need cannot be filled by the community food pantries.  Why?  Because food banks were never, I repeat never designed to be the answer to food insecurity.  Food Banks were created to be a temporary measure to a perceived temporary problem in the recession of 1980-81.  Food Banks were designed to fill an emergency need.   Today most food banks provide individuals with three to four days of meals and sometimes up to a week.  I’ve heard of one food bank providing up to a month.  I don’t think this is a healthy practice, since you would be creating dependents.  Food Banks are here to stay.  They fill a vital need in our communities and they deserve even more support than what they get from the public.

How do we know there’s a problem with food insecurity in York Region?  The Regional Municipality of York’s Human Services Planning Board published a wonderful resource called “Making Ends Meet”.  You can download it on their web site.  This report indicates that a family of four requires an annual income of $70,000 per year to make ends meet in York Region.  The good news is that 63.7% of our population’s households(High Income) make more than $70K per year.  The bad news is that 12.7% (low income) make less than 30K per year and 23.6% (moderate income) make more than $30K but less than 70K per year.  By these numbers, we know that at least 112,165 residents in York Region can’t make ends meet, and I’m  not sure how the moderate income residents are getting along.  My guess is that they are eating poorly and still require food support.

If the community food pantries in York Region are only feeding around 4900 residents per month (not all food pantries report) what are the other 107,265 residents doing to properly feed themselves?  So….what is the real need?  The need is at least 112,165 residents.  Food insecurity is a poverty issue, and poverty costs our governments BILLIONS of dollars a year in lost revenue. (That’s another blog post)

There are four main agencies in the city of Toronto that combat food insecurity: Daily Bread, Second Harvest, North York Harvest and Food Share Toronto.  If you visit the CRA website and go to the agencies financial information, you will see that the total income for all four agencies is over 50 Million dollars.  This is their annual budget plus the value of their “in-kind” donations for three of the four agencies. Divide the total income by the population of the city of Toronto and the number you’ll get is just over $20 per person.  Use the same math for York Region, and we have 95 cents per person to fight food insecurity.  Huge difference.  How wonderful that the city of Toronto has $20 per person to fight food insecurity.  Does the rate of food insecurity fall that dramatically when you are north of Steels avenue?

Again, the need in York Region is huge.  At least 112,165 residents need to access healthier foods.  Who’s going to help provide food security to over 100,000 people in York Region.  I’m still working on all the players, but I can say this, we’re are doing what we can with the little resources that we have.  When I say little, I mean little.

Our social service agencies require much more funding if we’re going to be effective in dealing with our social issues.  Our story could be far more satisfying if we had more media attention and support from our local residents and businesses.

Alex Bilotta.

Our Reefer Gets Decals

Our Food Share program purchased this truck in February of 2012.  The day after we had it delivered, we sent it to a contractor to install the refrigeration system.  When it came back, we noticed there was a huge dent in the sliding side door.  With this dent, we could not install the decals until the dent was repaired.  A new door was $1000.  In July, the truck was involved in an accident with a road crew, and then in another accident in December of 2012.  Wow!  The truck was finally repaired and we received delivery of our repaired truck in January of 2014, however, we could not get the decals installed until the temperature was above zero.  We finally pasted the decals on the truck on May 5th.  Thanks to the guys at Media Marksman in Markham.  Great job guys!


2014 Hunger Count Results

Food Banks Canada conducts an annual survey that provides a snapshot of hunger in Canada that includes all ten provinces and two territories in the month of March.  It is mandated by the Ontario Association of Food Banks that all LifeCorps Food Share members participate in the survey.  The hunger count data does not get used as the official hunger count until the next fiscal year.  Data collected this year, will not be used for until January of 2015

In previous years, only the community food pantry’s were included in the York Region survey.  Since LCFS has become the regional member with the Ontario Association of Food Banks, we’ve included community meal programs, women’s shelters, homelessness shelters, youth and transitional housing, seniors programs, substance abuse programs, community outreach programs, hospice and housing for the physically and mentally challenged.   We’ve also created 13 food closets in subsidized housing complexes and churches.

Through this survey we found the following statistics: (Month of March only)

  • Our food pantry’s and closets served 10,352 individuals in March of 2012
  • Our membership provided over 290,000 meals
  • 39%  of all served at the food pantry’s and closets were children under 18
  • 2978 different households were served at our food pantries/closets
  • 222 individuals were new immigrants

When we began collecting food from the OAFB back in 2012, the hunger count for York Region was 4723.  In 2013, the official hunger count rose to 5164.  Our final official results for 2014 should be between 8377 and 12,153.  This is an increase of between 62% to 135%.  We won’t have the final result until January of 2015.

Why is the hunger count so important?  It is used primarily by the Ontario Association of Food Banks to gauge the amount of food that is potentially delivered to each food bank.  The higher our hunger count, the higher the total amount of food that can be allocated for York Region.  All offerings to the food banks across Ontario are based on supply and demand.  In 2013, we collected over 110,000 pounds of food from the OAFB and the National Food Sharing System (Food Banks Canada).  We expect our total weight to increase proportionately with our hunger count in the coming years.

An Interview with Mrs. Hamida Merchant of Ja’fari Islamic Housing Corporation

I had the privilege of interviewing the property manager, Hamida Merchant, of Ja’fari Islamic Housing Corporation (JIHC). Below are six questions I asked and her responses.

  1. Tell me about your organization. When did you start? Where are you located? What services do you offer?
  2. Who is eligible to use your services?
  3. What do you love the most about what you do? What are some of the challenges?
  4. What are some of the challenges your clients face? And what solutions do you have or are working on?
  5. How does LifeCorps Food Share support you? How important is LifeCorps to your clients?
  6. Introduce me to one of your clients if one is willing. What is his or her story? How does he or she use your services and LifeCorps Food Share’s services?

“JIHC also known as Crescent Village was incorporated in 1991.  The project funded under the Federal/Provincial governments was completed in 1993 and occupancy started in October 1993.  The mandate of [JIHC] is to provide housing to low income families. From 1993 to 1999 the project was managed by a Property Management company and thereafter it went into self management when [JIHC] hired the services of Mrs. Hamida Merchant as the property manager.  The focus then shifted to the needs of the seniors, youths, single women and families which became the priority of the project.  In 2001, after the devolution from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing to the local municipality came the changes in who gets  priority of housing under the centralized wiating list under  SPP.  This was a big challenge for [JIHC]  as once  housing was provided to women from domestic violence situations [JIHC] realized that there was a great need of support required for them and their children.”

“When [JIHC] started housing applicants from the centralized waiting list, [JIHC] partnered with Sandgate Women’s Shelter who operate from Keswick.  [JIHC] offered them space in their premises and not only women who were housed were able to access the programs but other Sandgate’s clients in the vicinity also benefited.  Programs for women and children were held seperately and their Let’s Talk Program was a great success.  The women were able to get their confidence back, and the children were able to express themselves freely.  A lot of support was given for the families to get back on track and today [JIHC] takes pride in their  achievements. These women have gone back to school and started supporting their families and are off Ontario Works.  Some of them have remarried.  After this partnership, Sandgate’s needs grew and today they have an office in Markham and another shelter in Richmond Hill.

[JIHC]’s partnership with the York Regional Police is very productive.  The Property Manager attends Liaison Committee meetings regularly and in the last couple of years, members of the police force come out on bicycles to our housing complex and meet and greet the residents.  Since the tenants in the complex are from different countries where people are scared of the police, we have had to get our tenants overcome that fear and now many residents are quite comfortable approaching or calling the police for their needs.

[JIHC]’s partnership with CHATS- Community Housing Assistance to Seniors has been well received.  CHATS is offering a two day seniors program for frail South Asians living in York Region at our complex.  The program just started in March this year and there are already 20 people on the waiting list.  The program is full of fun where seniors carry out simple exercises, play bingo and other in-house sports followed by a nutritious lunch.  This program is funded by LHIN.

[JJIHC]’s partnership with Social Services Network has catered to men and women. Various speakers have been invited to come out and speak on health and social issues.  Some of the topics covered have been, Alzheimers, Diabetes, Eating Healthy, How to Keep Fit, Fall Preventaion, and many more.  Speakers have also talked about OAS and CPP benefits and how to prepare a Will and on Elder Abuse.

With the assistance Social Services Network, the complex is offering Yoga classes three times a week. Thirty women participate in this activity and is much admired and appreciated by all the participants.

[JIHC]’s partnerships with York Region Board of Education and YMCA have benefited many children who live in the community.  A community liaison officer from York Region Board of Education closely liaises with the management in providing support to students of the community to help them in their studies and other support services are provided to the parents as well.  YMCA holds after school program for children age 7-12 followed by a youth program which is well attended.

Relationship has been established with a charitable organization called the Crescent Village Trust though whose instrumentality [JIHC] was able to receive funding from Ontario Trillium Foundation to run youth programs.  Subsequently in 2009, [JIHC] received another funding from OTF to build basketball courts.   The courts are fully utilized by many youths and there is a youth program coordinator who coordinates various sports activities and other programs. During winter months a gym is rented in a nearby school.  There is also a website where the youth coordinator posts all the activities of the youth at the complex.

Every year 3 scholarships are awarded to students who have academically excelled in high school and wish to pursue post secondary education.

[JIHC] has sucessfully applied for funding from the Region under the SHRAP program whereby all new high efficiency furnaces in the housing complex were installed. It has also obtained funding from the Innovation Funding whereby several seniors units benefited by many retrofits.

[JIHC] has always given priority to the needs of indigent families via food coupons donated by community memebrs and by forging partnership with Sleep Country Canada in getting mattresses for the needy.

A committee is in place to help the families who need furniture, clothing, computers and household items etc. and these are stored in one of the garages at the housing complex and distributed as the need arises.

[JIHC]’s focus is to ensure that the units are in good condition. Currently, a major renovation work is under way involving  installation of  new kitchen cabinets, replacing vinyl with ceramics and parquet with laminate floors.

Residents take pride in keeping the housing complex clean and tidy and garden award prizes are handed out to residents who beautify their gardens.  These prizes including the scholarship awards are presented at the Tenant Annual Barbecue which is held in summer

Security cameras have been installed and this has deterred illegal activities in the parking areas and vicinity of the housing complex.

All of the above have been undertaken at the initiative of [JIHC].

In October 2011 JIHC was the only recipient out of the 47 providers in York Region of a Certificate of Recognition for the partnerships we have developed all because of the tireless efforts put in by [JIHC] to develop and nurture these partnerships.”

“[JIHC] together with its property manager have run programs at the complex very efficiently and in the most cost effective manner.  Over the last few years, the project has been recognized by the York Region as one of the best managed projects. Attention is paid to all the details from housekeeping,and maintenance to tenant relationships.

“We have a new partnership since 2013 with CHATS – an agency who serves seniors.  Through this agency we are bringing in programs 3 times a week for vulnerable Soutb Asian seniors.  There are approximately 70 seniors who attend this program here.

Also towards the end of last year we partnered with Life Corps – the agency brings in perishable and non perishable food items on Every Friday and we reach out to apprxomatley 30-35 families.  This has been well received.”

“[JIHC] has sucessfully applied for funding from the Region under the SHRAP program whereby all new high efficiency furnaces in the housing complex were installed. It has also obtained funding from the Innovation funding whereby several seniors units benefited by many retrofits.

[JIHC] has always given priority to the needs of indigent  families via food coupons donated by community memebrs and by forging partnership with Sleep Country Canada in getting free mattresses for the needy.

A committee is in place to help the families who need furniture, clothing, computers and household items etc. and these are stored in one of the garages at the housing complex and distributed as the need arises.

[JIHC]’s focus is to ensure that the units are in good condition. Currently, a major renovation work is under way involving  installation of  new kitchen cabinets, replacing vinyl with ceramics and parquet with laminate floors.

Residents take pride in keeping the housing complex clean and tidy and garden award prizes are handed out to residents who beautify their gardens.  These prizes including the scholarship awards are presented at the Tenant Annual Barbecue which is held in summer

Security cameras have been installed and this has deterred illegal activites in the housing complex.”

“LifeCorps is very important to us and we really value our partnership with them.

They bring in food items and we can reach out to about 30 families who normally would be aecessing other food banks.  The quality of bread they give us is excellent and deliveries are on a timely manner.  After starting this partnership members of our community also started bringing in non perishable items for distribution and the response from whom we reach out ahs been very welcoming.”


Hunger Awareness Week – May 5-9, 2014

Hunger Awareness Week is being sponsored by Food Banks Canada this year from May 5-9. Hunger Awareness Week allows members, clients, volunteers, and concerned community members to express themselves as this year’s theme is “Give Hunger a Voice”. You can voice your story, support, concern, or solution by submitting short written pieces, videos, or photos at and and participate in the many activities held by different food banks.


Red Cross Food Vouchers

Late January, LifeCorps Food Share received $16,200 in food vouchers (322 grocery cards) from the Red Cross. They will be distributed to members that participated in last year’s Hunger Count Survey of which most will go to the food banks.

The Canadian Red Cross, working under the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, provided many people who lost food due to the ice storm with grocery cards in January. The Canadian Red Cross also offers a variety of Ontario specific programs which include a variety of programs for seniors, parents, and children, and the community as a whole. They have many volunteer opportunities, events to raise money, and campaigns to build relationships and empower smaller communities. Check out their infographic to see the many ways in which they help.

For more information, visit:

Fresh Milk Allocation Increase for York Region in 2014

Through the Ontario Association of Food Bank’s Milk Program, York Region’s allocation of fresh milk was increased from 960 litres of month in 2013 to 1600 litres a month for 2014.  This fresh milk donation is made possible by the Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO), The Ontario Dairy Council (ODC), the Ontario Milk Transport Association (OMTA), and over 500 dairy farmers across Ontario.

LifeCorps Food Share drives to Mississauga every Monday to collect 288-1 litre cartons of homogenized milk, 80-1 litre cartons of 2% and 64-500 ml. cartons of 18% milk.  The milk is delivered to our 21 member food banks across York Region.   We estimate that the total value of the donation is almost $30,000 per year.

Food Banks Canada and the Ontario Association of Food Banks works diligently to encourage national and provincial retailers and producers to donate cash and food products to local food banks.  LifeCorps also works within York Region to encourage farmers, producers and retailers to donate fresh and frozen foods for our 45 non profit members, which include food banks and meal programs.

New Member: 360°kids

“One day, there will be no homeless people in York Region” is a pretty bold statement to make, some may even think it to be impossible, but not 360°kids. 360°kids (formerly Pathways for Children, Youth and Families of York Region) is LifeCorps Food Share’s newest member. Looking at the 2013 Hunger Report, one can see that there are many vulnerable populations within York Region. “360ºkids is a community-based organization empowering children, youth and families through prevention, education and advocacy to enhance their overall well-being.” Their help extends to young families with rearing their children, youth who need a place to stay, and teaching children essential life skills.

Their programs include school programs for children, family programs, and youth residential homes. They offer live-in mentors, youth housing, and social workers who help youth to accomplish their goals of living independently. 360°kids also allows youth to come out of unemployment and lead a life independently. However, 360°kids don’t just work within the boundaries of every program, they also work with street-involved or vulnerable youth who aren’t yet connected to them. With counselling and support, 360°kids has made a positive impact on many lives.

Click here to watch how lives are changed.

2.1 million dollars. 3 years. This is 360ºkids’ Every Kid Matters campaign and you can help them reach this goal. You can be part of the movement to get kids off the street and into homes; you can allow the homeless to be an integrated part of society, leading independent and comfortable lives. Make a one-time donation, volunteer with them, or participate in many fun events! Click here to go to their website to find out more about ways you can help.

360ºkids’ Home Base program has been in operation for 12 years. They serve 330 meals per month on average and also provide food outside of meal hours. LifeCorps Food Share will be providing 360ºkids with perishable and non-perishable food.

Helping to end hunger in York Region