The federal immigration minister said the fact some newly arrived Syrian refugees are using food banks can be partially explained by a "cultural element."

John McCallum told a Senate committee studying the resettlement of more than 25,000 Syrians in Canada that he's not overly concerned by reports of Syrians turning to food banks.

He said some are coming from camps where it is the norm to be offered meals and suggested that's why they may be using food banks here.

Very few of the Syrians settled in Canada are from refugee camps — the vast majority of more than 4 million refugees from the Syrian war don't live in UN camps, but in cities or informal settlements in the region.

Conservative Sen. Salma Ataullahjan says she's concerned by McCallum's suggestion it's a cultural issue, noting it's her understanding people use food banks because they don't have money.

Government assisted Syrian refugees receive income support but there has been criticism it's not enough, given the larger-than-expected size of the average Syrian families who've come to Canada in the last six months.