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Food Banks Canada's HungerCount study reports highest level of food bank use on record

OTTAWA, Nov. 16 - The results of the HungerCount 2010 survey released today show food banks across Canada helped 867,948 separate individuals in March 2010, an increase of 9.2%, or more than 73,000 people, compared to March 2009. This is 28% higher than in 2008, and is the highest level of food bank use since 1997.

Of the 867,948 people helped in March this year, 80,150 - 9.2% of the total - stepped through the front door of a food bank for the first time. The survey also shows that food bank use grew in every province in 2010.

"This is a reality check. Food banks are seeing first hand that the recession is not over for a large number of Canadians," said Katharine Schmidt, Executive Director of Food Banks Canada, which coordinated the annual national study.

"We are hearing that it is really tough out there," Ms. Schmidt said. "Many people who lost their jobs during the recession have now exhausted their unemployment benefits, and are looking to self-employment or to temporary and part-time jobs for income. Others have been forced to fall back on social assistance. These options aren't paying the bills, and people are accessing food banks to fill the gap."

As in past years, the profile of those assisted by food banks is highly varied:

  • 38% of those assisted by food banks are children and youth under 18 years old.
  • Half of assisted households are families with children.
  • 17% of households that turn to food banks for help each month are living on income from current or recent employment.
  • 7% of assisted households report a pension as their primary source of income.

"Coming to a food bank is not an easy decision for people," said Bill Hall, Executive Director of the Battlefords and District Food and Resource Centre, in North Battleford, Saskatchewan. "Unfortunately, there continues to be a need for help in our community, and we have expanded our efforts to meet that need - when the overall goal should be to address the causes of hunger more broadly, and to be able to reduce our services and even close our doors for good."

"Though the recession has made things worse, the causes of hunger and low income run much deeper than the recent economic crisis," said Ms. Schmidt. "The need for food banks is a result of our failure as a country to adequately address a number of social issues, including a changing job market, a lack of affordable housing and child care, and a social safety net that is ineffective."

The HungerCount provides recommendations on how the federal government can work to increase people's ability to be self sufficient. Food Banks Canada's recommendations include the following:

  1. Implement a national poverty prevention and reduction strategy, with measurable targets and timelines.
  2. Create a federal housing strategy to increase and monitor investment in affordable housing programs in Canada's cities, towns and rural areas.
  3. Maintain current levels of federal cash and tax transfers to provincial, territorial, and First Nations governments.
  4. Address the unacceptable rates of low income among our most vulnerable seniors - those who live alone, without other means of support.

About the HungerCount Survey

HungerCount was initiated in 1989 and is the only comprehensive national study of food banks and affiliated food programs in Canada. Since 1997, data for the study have been collected every March. The information provided by the survey is invaluable, forming the basis of many Food Banks Canada activities throughout the year. For a full copy of the HungerCount 2010 report and associated graphics, and for more information, please visit www.foodbankscanada.ca.

About Food Banks Canada

Food Banks Canada is the national charitable organization representing the food bank community across Canada. Our Members, Affiliate Member food banks, and their respective agencies serve approximately 85% of people accessing emergency food programs nationwide. Our mission is to meet the short-term need for food and find long-term solutions to reduce hunger.

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