The number of people who turn to food banks is up 20 per cent over last year, according to Food Banks Canada.

In the Ottawa area, more than 43,000 people use the food bank each month. Of those people, 35 per cent are children.

"It's not easy, it's not easy for poor people," said Joanne Chretien, who is a regular user of the Vanier Food Cupboard.

Chretien lives off $413 per month. She says her disability cheque doesn't go far enough and there's never enough money for food.

She says that forces her to turn to food banks across the city to fend off hunger.

"If I come here, I get enough for three to four days, then I go to Shepherds, then (the Salvation Army)," said Chretien.

"After that, I borrow from friends . . . I feel low when I have to do stuff like that."

But Chretien's not alone. Single-mom Patsy Stevens is also supporting her family with help from the food bank.

Stevens is currently on Ontario disability and says money tends to get tight around the middle of the month.

"It's not my proudest," she told CTV Ottawa.

Stevens doesn't just supplement her cupboards with food from the Vanier Food Cupboard; she also volunteers there.

She says she sees people from all walks of life, including students, young mothers and the elderly.

Despite the need, there are some days when the shelves are almost bare. That's why donations at the Vanier Food Cupboard are split into precise portions.

"Unfortunately, we have to limit it due to the amount of people that come through here to once a month and enough food for three to four days," said Andrew Rheaume, of the Vanier Food Cupboard.

The Ottawa Food Bank distributed 7,446,438 pounds of food during the 2007-08 fiscal year. The most popular categories included:

  • Canned Goods: 23 per cent
  • Fresh Harvest/City Harvest: 18 per cent
  • Bread, Cereals, Grains: 17 per cent
  • Dairy, Eggs, Juice: 16 per cent
  • Produce: 14 per cent
  • Frozen Goods (eg. meat): 8 per cent

With a report from CTV Ottawa's Kate Eggins