Food insecurity is now a crisis across Canada

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There has been a lot of anecdotal evidence for some time now that the increasing cost of living in this country has led to a serious rise in food insecurity, meaning an increased use of food banks among sectors of the population not known to be needing such support as much in the past. Food Banks Canada, Canada’s food bank network where the mandate is: “A Canada where no one goes hungry”, has issued their Poverty Report Cards for 2023, and the data confirms the anecdotal evidence.

The basic facts are stark. There was a total of 1,935,911 visits to food banks across Canada in March 2023, that’s just in one month – up 32% over 2022, and a whopping 78.5% increase compared to March 2019. 33% of food banks users in Canada are children, while only representing 20% of the population. 43.8% of food banks users in Canada are single adult households, while representing 29.3% of the population. Seniors represent 8% of Canadian food banks users, with the rate of increase far outpacing other age groups. 42.4% of Canadian food banks users are on social assistance or disability-related supports as their main source of income. 1 in 6 of those accessing food banks in Canada are employed.

Food Banks Canada report emphasises that “more than half of Canadians are less than a paycheque away from dire financial circumstances. An illness, accident, job loss, or dangerous family situation can push anyone over the edge and into the position of having to use a food bank”. In Ontario, this year’s figures already show that the rate of food insecurity has reached a depressing 24.5%, while the overall poverty rate stands at 10.9%.

According to the statistics produced by Food Banks Canada, “the top reasons people accessed a food bank this year were food costs, housing costs, and low wages or not enough hours of work. People accessing food banks in Canada are more likely to be in the lowest income bracket and are therefore particularly affected by any increase in food prices. When all factors are considered, the rising cost of food is only the tip of the affordability iceberg in terms of the cost challenges faced by those in the lowest-income households. Limited financial resources and housing costs that are well over the affordability threshold of 30 per cent of one’s income mean those living with low incomes are less likely to be able to manage food inflation and more likely to experience food insecurity. In addition, people working in the lowest-paying jobs were less likely to have seen any increase in wages during the year and were more likely to be working in industries where part-time work is the norm.”

Locally, the situation continues to cause concern. There are three food banks serving North Grenville: the House of Lazarus (which also covers North Dundas), the Salvation Army, and the Knights of Columbus. The fact that all three are busy and facing strong demand for their services, indicates how serious the situation is in our community.

The House of Lazarus has experienced large increase on demands for their services, and not only for their food bank program. Kim Merkley, Client Service Manager at HoL, told the Times that demand for the food bank services is up 50% from last year. “We are also up on our Operation Backpack Program. We are doing 267 children per week, that is in 12 schools,1 youth centre, 1 program within a school, and 1 nursery school.”

Donations are down, but Kim says, “we are doing okay”.

The Knights of Columbus don’t have a traditional food bank, but serve a number of individuals and families through a food voucher program. Their main work is at Christmas, and that is certainly their busiest time. But their capacity is limited and they have had to cut back on the extent of their support to families in need, owing to the cost and the lack of resources. While the Salvation Army is usually the first food bank people think of supporting, the other two services are important sources of food and support for many in both municipalities and deserve consideration when you’re thinking about helping out in this way.

The Food Banks Canada report has a series of recommendations for easing the pressure food insecurity is having on the people of our communities across the country, and these will be discussed in a later article. For now, however, and until everyone in this community has enough to eat without compromising on health and well-being, the local food banks need help. And the only place they’ll find it is with their friends and neighbours in North Grenville and North Dundas. We need to step up. Check their websites and Facebook pages for information.

1 COMMENT

  1. The reason for food insecurity in Canada is not higher food prices, but record profits for the big grocery stores like Loblaws, etc.

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