British Columbia

Food bank use in B.C. at an all-time high

According to the annual hunger count, food bank use in B.C. has gone up 3.4% since March 2015.

The total number of food bank users in B.C. increased for the 3rd year in a row

According to the annual HungerCount, food bank use in B.C. has gone up 3.4% since March 2015. (Eric Risberg/Associated Press)

Food bank use in B.C. is at a record high, with 103,400 people receiving assistance as of March 2016, according to Food Banks Canada's annual hunger count.

That's an increase of 3.4% since 2015, making 2016 the third year in a row that food bank use in B.C. has increased.

Children accessed food banks at disproportionately high levels, according to the count, which reported that 32 percent of  B.C. food bank users in 2016 were minors. 

Shawn Pegg, the director of policy and research at Food Banks Canada and the author of the report, said the increase in B.C. is tied to the high cost of living and the disappearance of high paying jobs.

"We see people working two or three part-time jobs and still being unable to make ends meet. We also see people transitioning back and forth between low paid work and social assistance," he said.

Food banks often a last resort

Pegg said that food bank users range from "households who worry about not being able to afford enough food, to households who eat less and lower quality foods to save money, and households who skip meals altogether to survive."

He said people experiencing what he calls "food insecurity" often turn to a food bank as a last resort. 

"We find people often ask friends and family for help. They sell their possessions to be able to buy food. They move into lower quality housing and take on credit card debt before choosing to go to a food bank," he said.

Food insecurity across Canada

According to the annual hunger count report, more than 863,000 Canadians accessed a food bank in the past year, up 28 per cent since before the 2008 recession. 

Some provinces, including Ontario and Manitoba experienced small decreases in food bank access. However in Alberta and Saskatchewan. food bank access is up by 17 per cent.

In Nova Scotia, access increased by 20 per cent. Canada's North was disproportionately affected, with the Yukon, N.W.T. and Nunavut experiencing increases of 25 per cent.

On Tuesday, Nov. 15, CBC Vancouver is hosting a free public forum exploring why B.C. still needs food banks. For more details click here.