Food Banks Canada reported that last March, Canadians visited food banks 1,096,935 times.
Kirstin Beardsley, Food Banks’ chief networks services officer, said that this number is “unacceptable,” and “it has to go down.”
“I think that’s a surprise to a lot of Canadians, quite frankly, that number,” Beardsley said.
Food Banks tracked the number of Canadians using their services with a “census-style count” for only one month last year, March 2018.
Wendi Campbell, CEO of the Food Bank of the Waterloo Region said that the numbers in her area are similar.
Most who use food banks have the larges share of their income coming from social assistance
“The one million number seems like a huge number, but it’s the reality that we’ve been dealing with as food bank partners across the country for the last number of years,” she said.
In New Brunswick, 31.5 percent of those in need of help from the Food Bank were children. Two-parent families made up 17.5 percent of users, and single-parent families made up 17 percent of users.
Most households that use food banks see the most significant portion of their income come from social assistance.
Food insecurity, an election issue?
Beardsley also said that the government needs to address underlying problems of poverty and low income that are leading to food insecurity.
“Food banks do the best to provide the food that people need today, but we need to drive these numbers down. What we need is public policy change,” she said. “We need to see governments take action so that these numbers go down and people aren’t needing to turn to a food bank in the first place.”
She also said that programs like basic income and affordable childcare have not been seriously looked at as viable options by politicians.
She also said she hopes these problems spark a national conversation as the election approaches: “we would hope that a lot of Canadians talk to their candidates about the issues we’ve put forward so that we can come back next year and see those numbers going down.”