Hunger Awareness Week
This week is Hunger Awareness Week in Canada, and so I am providing a bit of background on it and asking again for people to support their local food banks.
In March 2016, 863,492 people received food from a food bank in Canada. This is 1.3% higher than the same period in 2015 and 28% higher than in 2008. Of the more than 800,000 people 36%are children and youth, this was 28% higher than 2008. 8 of 10 provinces saw an increase
Too many Canadians do not have enough income to pay for rent, bills, clothing for growing children, transportation, medication – and food. Food is, unfortunately, one of the most flexible household expenses, and it is often nutrition that suffers when money is tight
Food banks come to the aid of a diverse range of people who do not have enough income to cover food. More than one-third of individuals helped are children and youth, and more than 40% of households receiving food are families with children. Single people living alone – who face a very high risk of living in poverty – have grown as a proportion of households helped.
A large number of households accessing food banks are on some form of government assistance, including pension, disability-related income supports, and welfare – a stark indication of the very low level of support provided by these programs. On the other side of the coin, nearly one in six households helped are working, yet still, need a food bank to make ends meet
The Hunger Count study has been performed annually since 1999 when 718,292 people were helped by a still-growing network in March of that year. Exactly ten years later, near the peak of the 2008-2009 recession, 794,738 Canadians were assisted by a more mature, organized, and diverse network. Now, seven years since the end of the economic downturn, food bank use continues its elevated post-recession plateau. Today, 188,000 more people need help each month than in 2008.
Hunger Awareness Week is a growing movement to raise awareness about the solvable problem of hunger in Canada. Food banks across the country host events during Hunger Awareness Week to tell the story of the work they do and the stories of the hungry Canadians who use food banks.
Since the first annual Hunger Count report, other national food bank networks have sprung up to join those in North America. These networks exist in Australia, New Zealand, 24 countries in Europe, and across South America. Each of them exists for one overarching reason: to help our most vulnerable citizens make it through the hard times caused by a lack of well-paying jobs and inadequate government supports.
Who uses a food bank?
Hundreds of thousands of Canadians who live in cities, towns, and villages, in the country and in your neighborhood use food banks because they do not have enough money to feed themselves or their families. Children. Seniors. People with disabilities. People who have jobs and still can’t make ends meet. As you can see from the chart below the biggest percentage of Canadians who use the food bank are parents with children.
In Canada, the percentage of those between the ages of 45-65 and 65+ are less than those helped by the food bank. The 45-64 year are 28% of the Canadian population while only 22.7 percent are helped by food banks. Those who are 65+ are 16.1 percent of the population yet only 5.3% are helped by food banks
Hunger in Canada exists because deep and persistent poverty continues in the country. For more than a decade, diverse and inter-related factors have sustained this situation: a labour market that fails to provide enough jobs with stable, livable wages; a rise in precarious and non-standard employment; a fraying income security system that does not provide sufficient financial support for those in need; a lack of affordable, social housing; and accessible and affordable childcare. People living in poverty cannot afford sufficient, nutritious food. Many turn to food banks to help them meet this most basic need.
Hunger in Canada can be alleviated. Everyone can play a part in reducing hunger. You can volunteer at the local food bank, donate food and funds, approach local representatives, join local Hunger Awareness Week activities and events, spread the word at various milieus (workplace, faith groups, schools, etc)