Cost of Living Increases, More Canadians Use a Food Bank

by admin on March 8, 2011

We are living in difficult times of economic instability and financial uncertainty. Nine per cent of the Canadian adults are presently unemployed (Digital Journal), and many of those who work have to put up with a lower-paying, benefits-shy substitute position. The reason is that they have lost their original job during the global economic crisis. Add to this the constantly rising cost of living, and it should come as no surprise that the average Canadian is facing difficulties. Some find it hard to even provide for themselves and their children, and they often go hungry.

Last month, Food Banks Canada published a study which revealed that only in March, 867,948 Canadians visited a food bank. This figure is up with 73,000 in comparison to the preceding year and the largest number since 1997 when the company began conducting its surveys. One out of 10 persons who used a food bank did so for the first time, and 38 per cent of the visitors were children (Digital Journal). This figure is stunning: the next generation of Canadians sees poverty since a very young age. Moreover, healthy food is way more important for children than for those who are already grown up.

The study also reported a percentage increase in food bank usage from the previous year in all provinces of Canada, with Quebec (37.9 per cent), Manitoba (20 per cent), and Saskatchewan (20 per cent) topping the list (Vancouver Sun).

Such figures are distressing and shameful for a wealthy country like Canada. ‘This has to be a red flag for the federal government,’ says New Democratic Party Member of Parliament Tony Martin, while Katharine Schmidt, executive director of Food Banks Canada, adds: ‘It is unacceptable for anyone to go hungry in a nation as prosperous as ours.’ According to Schmidt, the reasons for this general impoverishment of Canadians cannot be sought only in the recent crisis. ‘The causes of hunger run much deeper,’ she claims and points to the lack of inexpensive housing and proper childcare, the loss of jobs in the forestry and manufacturing industries, as well as to the ‘ineffective’ social safety net (Toronto Sun).

To reverse the current dire situation, Food Banks Canada is advocating a national poverty prevention strategy, larger investments in affordable housing, and greater governmental support for impoverished seniors, including Guaranteed Income Supplement, and measures for families with children (e.g. bigger child tax benefits).

Whether the federal government will pay attention, however, is quite a different story. Given the recent plans to fund Afghanistan with 3 billion dollars, it seems unlikely that our politicians will address this domestic issue. It is an unfortunate fact that the big wigs in power do not go to work with the average Canadian in mind. But we need not, nay, must not behave like politicians. Instead of waiting for a favorable wind of change from the above, we can learn to support our needy fellow countrymen to the best of our capacities. Remember that regardless of your situation now, fate is unpredictable. You might be the one who is needy tomorrow. The easiest way to help is to make a donation, regardless of how small it is, to the food bank bin the next time you go shopping for groceries. If there is no bin installed at your local grocer’s, you can request one by contacting Food Banks Canada. We must not forget that even a small contribution on our part can go a long way in helping those who are less fortunate than us.

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