More Quebecers asking for help to keep food on their tables, report finds
‘The last few years have been almost beyond what we can handle,’ says director of a West Island food bank
More and more Quebecers are having to rely on food banks to make sure they have enough to eat each month, according to a new report released Tuesday.
An annual report by Food Banks Canada found that 171,800 people in the province were assisted by food banks in March 2016, an increase of 5.3 per cent, or 8,648 people, from the same month last year.
The increase does not come as a surprise to Wendy Gariepy of the West Island Mission, which is one of three food banks that serves Montreal's West Island.
"The demand has gone up in increasingly large numbers. There's no doubt about it," said Gariepy, operations manager at the mission.
"The last few years have been almost beyond what we can handle."
Since 2008, food bank use in Quebec has increased by nearly 35 per cent, according to Food Banks Canada.
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The report, known as the HungerCount, uses data collected from organizations that have a food bank or provide a meal program.
Food Banks Canada asks organizations to fill out a survey for all clients using their services in March of that year.
March is chosen because it is an "unexceptional month, without predictable high or low use patterns." Food Banks Canada then compares previous years to look for trends.
For this year's HungerCount, 982 organizations across Quebec participated.
Families struggling, demand growing
Gariepy said she attributes the rising trend she sees at the West Island Mission to an increase in immigration, rising food prices and the economy.
According to the HungerCount 2016 report, nearly 43 per cent of Quebecers who use food banks belong to a single-parent or two-parent household.
"Most of these parents try their hardest to get a little bit of food on the table no matter what," said Gariepy, adding that the mission serves about 160 to 180 clients a month, the majority of them being families.
"But it doesn't sometimes end up being very much food, and it doesn't end up always being the best food."
Gariepy said most families come in looking for fresh fruits and vegetables, which can eat up their budget because produce has gone up in price at the grocery store.
Instead of providing families with produce, the West Island Mission gives them basic food items so that budgets can be stretched a bit further and sometimes include fruits and vegetables, said Gariepy.
The growing demand is a concern for Gariepy who said that, in some months, they have to refer new clients to other food banks in the West Island because they cannot take on additional clients.