Oct 25, 2023
By Jane Brown
“Relentless inflation and a broken social safety net have caused many people who never thought they would need a food bank to walk through the doors for the first time. With food banks across Canada in crisis mode, as demand reaches new all-time highs, we must ask: when is it enough before we act?” urges Kirstin Beardsley, Chief Executive Officer, Food Banks Canada.
We’ve learned nearly two-million Canadians visited a food bank in the month of March, a record number that food bank representatives say paints a dire picture of growing food insecurity across the country.
Food Banks Canada’s annual Hunger Count Report says governments have been ignoring alarm bells as use of the service has grown among working people, seniors and immigrants.
Data collected from food banks across the country shows Canadians are struggling to pay for housing, food and other expenses that consume more of their wages.
The report says people on social assistance programs make up more than 40 per cent of food bank users, as their monthly payments have failed to rise and keep most recipients in poverty.
The report also shows that housing affordability is also a major driver of food bank use.
The report’s authors day the time to rebuild our outdated and broken social safety net is long overdue – action on an income floor is needed today.
They say it’s time for governments to take bold action toward introducing new supports, in particular for working-age singles and people with disabilities.
In addition, Governments must react appropriately to the severity of the housing crisis, they say.
Serious action is recommended to increase the construction of affordable units while short-term solutions, like a rental assistance program, should be introduced to help those struggling today.
As low-income workers flood food banks, the report says Canada needs new policies that guarantee those who work will always have enough money to put food on the table.
This means that the long-awaited EI reforms need to be introduced swiftly.
Additional living wage reforms and changes to the Canada Workers Benefit will also be necessary to ensure that Canadian workers with low incomes can make ends meet.