High Food Prices - © bbq4dummies.com

Canadian Food Insecurity Reaches Alarming Milestone

Latest official figures show that a record number of Canadians are having trouble putting adequate food on the table. And hand in hand with that comes news that Food Banks are struggling as never before to do their job…

Food Bank Hampers - © Yellowhead Comm ServHampers like these are becoming harder and harder for Food Banks to assemble
as the demand for help continues to rise and donations continue to fall…

Canada’s current population is estimated at nearly 39 million. That’s about the same as the US state of California, and about 15 million more than the entire country of Australia. Yet Canada is one of the largest countries in the world by land mass. You’d think with all our resources, Canadians would be able to provide themselves with an abundance of healthy food. Apparently that’s not so.

New figures cause for concern

Food Banks Canada released its inaugural poverty report earlier this week. And the news was, to say the least, embarrassing. At worst, alarming. In fact, most provinces and territories earned no better than ‘D’ grades for their efforts to meet the challenge of food security.

The Report Card reveals that almost 7 million Canadians say they can’t afford adequate food for their families. That’s almost 18.4 percent – closing fast on an even 1 out of every 5 of us. No wonder food banks are struggling to keep up with the demand from desperate low-income folks.

General considerations

In general, more than 41 percent of Canadians surveyed said they were unable to afford 2 or more items on a shopping list considered necessary for an adequate standard of living.

A whopping 45.9 percent of government assistance recipients said, “they ‘personally receive some form of social security benefit or support’ AND indicated that ‘social assistance rates aren’t high enough to help [them] keep up with the cost of living’.”

Some 12.3 percent of Canadians polled, “indicated they are financially worse-off compared to one year prior.”

Food banks in emergency mode

The bottom line: Canada’s food banks are seeing their highest level of demand in history. And they’re not keeping up.

“Our country needs a collective and concerted effort, from all levels of government, to ensure that poverty growth not only slows down, but reverses course so that we can get to a place where no one is forced to turn to a food bank,” Food Banks Canada CEO Christine Beardsley told the Ottawa Citizen.

“We’re seeing people from all walks of life turning to the Ottawa Food Bank,” Ottawa Food Bank Communications Director Tricia Johnson said. “With food prices going up, income rates are just not keeping pace.”

Government in the hot seat

The federal government is in the hot seat over sky-high food prices at this juncture. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters that the food price crisis was ‘top of mind’ for Parliamentarians returning from their summer break. CEOs of Canada’s Big 5 supermarket chains pledged their support for any forthcoming government efforts to bring prices down.

Many observers – including yours truly – remain skeptical that the government will propose any really meaningful measures to combat food insecurity. Nor will the supermarkets really support any such measures if they come.

~ Maggie J.