Donations to the Daily Bread Food Bank in Toronto, October, 2013 (Photo: CBC)
"Food bank use remains close to record levels" in this country, according to a new report from Food Banks Canada.
The Hunger Count 2013 report finds that in March 2013, 833,098 people used a food bank in Canada, down slightly from 872,379 in March 2012. More than a third of those people were children.
"During a time of apparent economic recovery, far too many Canadians still struggle to put food on the table," the report states.
Northern Canada is one of the hardest-hit parts of the country. "Food insecurity in the North, and particularly in the Arctic, is a dire public health emergency," according to the report.
Residents of the North have come to rely on food delivered from the South, driving up the costs of even a basic diet. There was a 52.1 per cent increase in the number of northern residents who used food banks between 2012 and 2013, and a 163 per cent increase between 2008 and this year.
The report calls for the foundation of a federal Northern Food Security Innovation Fund to encourage community-led food initiatives across the North.
“It’s incredibly concerning,” Katherine Schmidt, executive director of Food Banks Canada, told The Toronto Star. “We live in such a prosperous country. Far too many Canadians are looking into an empty fridge and wondering how they’re going to feed themselves and their kids.”
According to the report, the root cause of people's need for food banks is low income. It includes five recommendations for improving the situation:
1) Create long-term funding for affordable housing in Canada to prevent people having to choose between rent and food
2) Increase social investment in northern Canada
3) Help vulnerable Canadians get more job training by increasing federal support for existing programs under Labour Market Agreements from $500 million to $700 million
4) Revolutionize social assistance to help people become self-sufficient rather than living in poverty
5) Increase federal and provincial support to help people in low-paying, part-time and temporary jobs find more permanent employment
With the holiday season approaching, food banks will be seeking donations across Canada. One event to look out for is the Sounds of the Season celebration, taking place Friday, December 6 at the CBC Broadcasting Centre in Toronto.
The event will feature a silent auction and a chance to meet your favourite CBC personalities, with proceeds going to local food banks in Toronto and the GTA.
For more details on how food bank usage has changed, check out this map, which was included in the report: