Home Blog April 2016 Why Canada Needs the HungerCount

Why Canada Needs the HungerCount

Why Canada Needs the HungerCount
The HungerCount study is an annual research initiative of Food Banks Canada that brings together information from more than 4,000 food banks, meal programs and other food-related organizations. In 2015, it found that 852,137 people accessed a food bank in Canada in the month of March alone.
Using information from the HungerCount, we estimate that 1.7 million people made nearly 15 million visits to food banks last year.
In our experience, the response to the HungerCount tends to encompass two emotions: anger and disbelief. Rooms go silent when people hear that more than 850,000 people access a food bank each month. People think to themselves, “how is this possible in a country as prosperous as Canada?”
Using Research to Influence Policy Change  
We live in a country where 4 million Canadians live in poverty. Where people who fall on hard times – because they have been laid off, because they get sick or hurt, because they have to quit work to care for a family member – are expected to live on a fraction of what it actually costs to be safe and healthy. Where it can be very difficult to get back on your feet after a period of hardship.
The HungerCount report aims to focus, harness and translate Canadians’ emotional reaction to its findings into pressure on federal, provincial and local governments to make changes that will reduce poverty, food insecurity and the need for food banks. And it has been successful in doing so. Thanks to the dedicated participation of thousands of organizations across the country, the HungerCount has become one of the most widely disseminated and frequently cited pieces of research related to the issue of hunger and food insecurity in Canada.
We Need Many Data Sources to Make the Case Against Food Insecurity
The HungerCount has been performed every year since 1997, and it is needed now more than ever. Budget cuts and other changes at Statistics Canada have produced major confusion in national statistics on poverty. We have lost the Statistics Canada Survey on Labour and Income Dynamics, the only study that reliably tracked changes in Canadians’ income (and people’s experiences with low income) over time. The federal government has not updated the Market Basket Measure of low income – an incredibly valuable tool in understanding poverty – since 2011.
The HungerCount isn’t perfect. It provides a snapshot in time of a population of Canadians who are in desperate circumstances. We need other data on poverty and food insecurity to truly understand the size of the underlying issues. But in a time when progressive organizations are struggling with funding, and when the federal government has reduced its tracking of poverty, the HungerCount provides an essential snapshot of a very troubling phenomenon. It also acts as an important sparkplug for the media, governments and Canadians of all stripes to act on the issues of hunger, food insecurity and poverty.

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of food distributed by Canadian food banks is fresh (eg. milk, eggs, fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, bread)