Record number of Canadians using food banks

Trent Ernst, Editor
 
The annual stats from Food Banks Canada were released last week, and they are not encouraging. 
 
After a slight drop in 2011, food bank use increased by 2.4 percent in 2012, with over 882,000 people needing assistance every month, 339,000 of which were children. 
 
That’s up 31 percent in the last five years. 
 
“It is shocking that, in a country as prosperous as Canada, hundreds of thousands of children rely on food banks to have enough to eat each month,” said Katharine Schmidt, Executive Director of Food Banks Canada, which coordinated the national study involving more than 4,500 food assistance programs. “Though food banks do what they can to fill the need, too many kids are still going to school on empty stomachs. 
 
“Hunger saps you physically and emotionally, particularly if you don’t know where your next meal is coming from,” continued Schmidt. “It has negative long-term health impacts, and prevents Canadians from contributing to their full potential.” 
 
The HungerCount 2012 study also found that: 
 
·11% of those receiving food each month—93,000 people—are accessing a food bank for the first time. 
 
·1 in 5 households assisted by food banks have income from current or recent employment. 
 
·21% of households helped are living on an old age or disability pension. 
 
·Half of households receiving food are families with children. 
 
In Tumbler Ridge, the number of families using the food bank was down this year, though whether that is because of decreased demand or because people are scared to ask is unsure. Food Bank Coordinator Matthew Westegard says that in a town as affluent as Tumbler Ridge, it can be hard to ask for help. “I don’t know the reason why people don’t show up the food bank,” says Westergard. “The people that we don’t see, we can’t talk to them. It could be that they just didn’t know that the service is available. We just had a client last week that had only just heard about it.”  
 
Then again, says Westegard, sometimes its pride, or fear. “We do see some low-income folks, so that makes sense, but if you drive around Tumbler Ridge there is a large amount of prosperity. We are in a fairly affluent town, and I’m sure there’s a degree of ‘will I get help if I go to the food bank because I have stuff, and I have a good paying job, but can’t feed the kids today?’ Also, people often don’t want to admit they need help, because they view it as some sort of failure. But everyone needs help sometimes.”
 
Over the next few months, there will be a number of fundraisers for the food bank, including the annual food drive, the Christmas Angel campaign and the Fotos for Food Fundraiser. The majority of food and donations come in at this time of year.