A few mothers who have recently come into the Good Shepherd’s food bank in Hamilton, Ont., looking for baby formula have been leaving empty-handed.

“It’s quite stressful,” said manager Christina Ferguson. “If you send the mother away without the proper food, we’re actually saying to them, ‘You’re going to go home and your child may starve’.”

Roderick Ryner thinks about how he lost track of his poor, his unemployed, his sick and disabled and the people struggling with their schooling in the northern Ontario district of Cochrane.

“I was shocked that this would happen,” Ryner says.

He’s the regional coordinator for the Cochrane District Social Planning Council, covering an economically struggling and volatile area just slightly smaller than Michigan and touching the lives of more than 80,000 people in communities carved out of the boreal forest reaching up to Hudson’s Bay.

He’s referring to data he no longers has from the long-form census that Ottawa discontinued in 2010, shortly before the 2011 census was taken — data he uses to advise municipal, provincial and federal governments and community leaders and six Cree bands about what services they need to provide to the district’s inhabitants.

A family on a healthy diet can expect to pay $2,000 more a year for food than one having less nutritious meals, say researchers who recommend that the cost gap be closed.

The research in Thursday’s issue of British Medical Journal Open reviewed 27 studies from 10 high-income countries to evaluate the price differences of foods and diet patterns.

“Our results indicate that lowering the price of healthier diet patterns — on average about $1.50/day more expensive — should be a goal of public health and policy efforts, and some studies suggest that this intervention can indeed reduce consumption of unhealthy foods,” Dariush Mozaffarian, the study’s senior author and a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and his co-authors concluded.

About 45 per cent of Canadians who rely on food banks live in Ontario, according to a new report being released Monday.

And one-third of the 375,000 Ontarians who use a food bank every month are under age 18, says the Ontario Association of Food Banks’ 2013 Hunger Report.

Although the overall number of food bank users this year is down from last year’s record high of almost 413,000, it is still more than in 2008, when the global economic recession hit, the report says.

“Ontario has really been hit much harder than any other province by the loss of good-paying jobs that aren’t coming back,” said the association’s executive director Bill Laidlaw. “It’s a sad thing when you think close to 50 per cent of the food-bank users are now in Ontario.”