Food bank use in Canada hits record high
The number of people using food banks across the country hit an all-time high earlier this year, with high inflation and low welfare rates cited as key factors in the rise, says a new report from Food Banks. Canada.
The annual report released on Thursday said there were nearly 1.5 million visits to food banks in March, a figure 15% higher than the number of visits for the same month last year and 35% higher than the number of visits in March 2019, before the pandemic hit.
The report, which looked at data from more than 4,750 food banks and community organizations, said soaring food and housing costs, along with high inflation and low welfare rates, have contributed to increased use of food banks.
Kirstin Beardsley, CEO of Food Banks Canada, called the numbers « devastating. »
“What we are seeing is the combination of the long-term effects of a broken social safety net combined with the effects of inflation and high costs driving more people to use food banks than ever before in the world. history of Canada, » she said in a phone interview.
« Behind every one of these numbers is a person who is struggling too much to get by. »
Fixed-income groups like the elderly and employed but low-income people like students have been hit harder because their paychecks can’t keep up with inflation, Beardsley said.
« We have people like old people, who have been able to afford to live, who suddenly have to turn to the food bank for the first time in their lives because it’s not all adding up, » Beardsley said.
« And the students are the same, often they have very limited income, and so when the costs go up, as we’ve seen, you just can’t stretch the dollar. »
The report says that around 500,000 food bank clients – about a third – are children, who make up around 20% of the country’s total population.
Childhood hunger is an issue that can have a lasting impact, Beardsley said.
« It’s the future of our country, it’s who our future leaders, scientists, artists are going to be, » she said. « When you go to school hungry, you don’t learn, you don’t focus, you don’t prepare to thrive. »
Food Banks Canada said food insecurity is particularly severe in northern Canada, calling for the development of community-based approaches in those regions to address the problem.
Beardsley called the report a « wake-up call » that should trigger action to address food insecurity and the issues that contribute to it.
The report proposes short- and long-term solutions, including creating a universal minimum income for low-income Canadians and providing more affordable, subsidized housing.
He also suggests that reforms are needed to employment insurance and the Canada workers benefit programs.