Fewer Albertans are heading to food banks for help, bucking a national trend that shows a growing number of Canadians depending on charity for food.

More than 53,000 people in Alberta turned to a food bank for help in March 2012, down nearly 9 per cent over the previous year. Calgary Food Bank officials say the change is due to the province’s strengthening economy.

"I think that what we're seeing is a reflection of the economy in Alberta, that we're strong," said D.D. Coutts. "What we're hoping is … people are actually re-entering the workforce so that the demand for our services are decreasing, ever so slightly, but they are on the decrease."

However, food bank use in Alberta is still up 60 per cent since the 2008 recession.

Shifting picture across Canada

An annual study by Food Banks Canada, released Tuesday, paints a shifting picture of hunger across Canada — one in which the number of people who are hungry remains the same, but where they live is constantly changing.


Children and youth make up 38 per cent of food bank users in Canada. (CBC)

About half of the 4,500 food programs surveyed reported an increase in food bank use, while half reported a decrease or no change, the study revealed. Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec and the Territories all saw a decrease in food bank use between 2011 and 2012, with the biggest drop coming in Alberta.

More than 882,000 Canadians used a food bank in March 2012, up 2.4 per cent from last year, says the annual study by Food Banks Canada. Food bank usage is up 31 per cent since the start of the 2008 recession.

"We were hopeful that we'd start to see things level off, but that's not the case," said Katharine Schmidt, Food Banks Canada's executive director.

The report makes five recommendations, including investing in more affordable housing to ensure people don't have to make the choice between rent and food. It also calls for more investment in education and training for those unable to access employment benefits, while beefing up income supplements for seniors to keep them above the poverty line.

With files from The Canadian Press