Far too many Canadians are being left behind and counting on food banks to get by, according to HungerCount 2014, a national study released last week by Food Banks Canada.
Food bank use increased slightly in 2014 by 1 per cent. The report shows that in a typical month, food banks in Canada now provide food and other supports to more than three quarters of a million separate individuals – 841,000 people. The report also highlights the troubling trends that contribute to the increase in household food insecurity and food bank use across the country.
“The job market is very tough right now,” said Katharine Schmidt, Executive Director of Food Banks Canada, which coordinated the national study involving more than 4,000 food programs. “The unfortunate combination of low-paying jobs, inadequate supports for the unemployed, and a lack of training opportunities for Canadians is keeping food bank use near record levels.”
Ian McKelvie, Administrator for the Dundas County Food Bank, reports that food bank use at its two locations in Morrisburg and Winchester increased by 16 per cent in 2014.
“It’s discouraging to see that the increase in the number of people using our local food banks is so much higher than what the HungerCount is reporting nation-wide” noted McKelvie. “One statistic that mirrors the study” McKelvie adds, “is that 40 per cent of those requiring assistance in our community are children.”
The Dundas County Food Bank now assists 580 people including 355 families.
“The coming holiday season is a crucial time of year for providing emergency food for people in need. We are still seeking more donations of food and extra funds to purchase other items such as milk, fresh fruit and vegetables and meat,” said McKelvie.
The HungerCount 2014 study found that:
• Each month, 90,000 Canadians are forced to ask for help from a food bank for the first time.
• 4 in 10 of those relying on this assistance are children.
• The number of single adults helped by food banks each month has doubled since 2001 – from 80,000 to 158,000.
“It has been six years since the recession sent food bank use soaring,” continued Schmidt. “It is time to stop waiting for things to improve – it is time to start acting to make real investments in policies that will reduce the need for food banks.”
The HungerCount 2014 report proposes key policy recommendations that can make significant progress in reducing the number of people who need help from food banks. These include:
– Investing in affordable housing,
– Providing more effective supports to low-income families with children, and
– Helping Canadians get the skills they need for the well-paying jobs of today.