HungerCount evaluates food bank usage during the month of March every year. Volunteers survey clients to determine the factors that contribute to food bank use including: income, age, education, health, housing and employment. Since the recession began in 2008, food bank usage has continued to rise with current food bank use 31% higher than 2008.
Children and youth, though only 21% of the Canadian population, make up 38% of those helped by food banks. People on social assistance, single parent families and those who identify as First Nations, Métis, or Inuit are all at high risk of needing help.
The key factor at the root of the need for food banks is low income, whether in the short or long term. People asking for help are working in low-paying jobs, receiving meager social assistance benefits, managing on inadequate pensions. Though households receiving social assistance account for less than 10% of the overall population, they make up 52% of those receiving food from food banks.
11% of the households surveyed (93,000 people), accessed a food bank for the first time. Though it is a common belief that individuals and families utilize food banks year in and year out, in fact, for most it is an emergency resource used for a short period of time.
Hunger is toxic for those living through it, and it is harmful to Canada as a whole. To address it, we need to be smarter about helping people become more self-sufficient, and we need to be more supportive of those who need help over the longer term.
To these ends, we support Food Banks Canada and their recommendation including:
● Increasing federal investment in affordable housing, so that people are not forced to choose between paying rent and buying food.
● Improving the Guaranteed Income Supplement so that no senior falls below the poverty line.
● Making significant changes at the provincial government level to social assistance, so that the program helps people to live with dignity and get back on their feet.
● Increasing the value, and broaden eligibility for the Working Income Tax Benefit (WITB), and increase investment in education and training for the hundreds of thousands of unemployed people in Canada who are not able to access Employment Insurance benefits.
According to Chris Hatch, Executive Director of The Mississauga Food Bank, “The common misconception is that only the unemployed or homeless access our 154 food programs, but the struggle runs much deeper than that. Our clients make up 9% of the Mississauga population and include many working adults and their children who depend on our help. We rely on Mississauga’