Over the past several months, Food Banks Canada has been made increasingly aware of the desperate situation that many food banks and community agencies working on the frontline of the hunger crisis in Canada have been facing.
Food Banks Canada’s latest HungerCount report – which is our signature, cross-sectional census survey of most food bank agencies, organizations, and programs within and outside of the Food Banks Canada network – found that in March 2022 alone, there were nearly 1.5 million visits to food banks in Canada, representing an unprecedented level of demand and the highest March usage in history.
The landmark report also found that one third of food bank clients are children, with higher costs related to raising a family in this era of rapid inflation making households with dependents more vulnerable to poverty and hunger.
Earlier this month, new data released by Statistics Canada provided further evidence that household food insecurity is on the rise across the country, and that families with children are more likely to be struggling with insecure or inadequate access to food.
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According to Food Banks Canada CEO Kirstin Beardsley, the national network of 4,750 food banks and community agencies has been deeply affected by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and is not immune to the inflationary pressures that are driving the cost of living up for food-insecure families in every province and territory.
“As we face a mounting hunger and cost-of-living crisis that shows no signs of ending due to the rapidly rising rates of inflation, income inequality and a deteriorating social safety net, it is important to remember that food banks get hit multiple times in the process,” said Kirstin Beardsley, CEO of Food Banks Canada. “More people are coming through the door, with the demand for food bank services skyrocketing. Meanwhile, food bank budgets are also being stretched when it comes to every aspect of their operations, including all of the costs involved in safely purchasing, distributing and storing a sufficient amount of fresh and healthy food for people in need.”
Without emergency support, Beardsley added, many food banks across the network would be in fear of facing a significant reduction, or possible discontinuation, of their services.
Emergency funding helps food banks.
To help provide a direct and immediate response to the food insecurity crisis and provide some relief to families and communities in desperate need, Food Banks Canada committed $3M in funding toward the 2023 Emergency Food Access Grant earlier this year.
With additional support from our long-standing partners, such as Loblaw Companies Limited and the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Foundation, the 2023 Emergency Food Access Grant was established to support as many food banks within Food Banks Canada’s network as possible who were in urgent need of food-purchasing funds and struggling to provide food to meet the needs of their clients and community.
“Loblaw operates in virtually every community across Canada, and as such, we have a responsibility to the communities we serve,” says Alain Brandon, Vice President, Sustainability, Social Impact and Government Relations at Loblaw. “That includes maximizing our ability to donate to local food banks, and in turn, maximizing the food bank’s ability to provide Canadians with nutritious, fresh food from coast to coast to coast.”
All funding under this grant program was dedicated to ensuring nearly 100 different affiliate food banks as well as food security organizations located in Northern communities had immediate access to food and meals for people experiencing food insecurity, from The Salvation Army Ches Penney Centre of Hope in St. John’s, N.L., which used the funds to purchase non-perishable food for families in need when their food stocks were near depletion, to the South Cariboo Elizabeth Fry Society in Ashcroft, B.C., which used the funding to help keep pace with their increasing client base, including clients who lost their homes and jobs due to B.C.’s climate disasters in 2021.
In the isolated Nunavut community of Sanikiluaq, which is located on an island in Hudson’s Bay, funding from the 2023 Emergency Food Access Grant was used to provide each household with a gift card to purchase $200 worth of healthy groceries.
“The community did not expect this, but we were met with warm reception and appreciation for our efforts in curbing the food insecurity in Sanikiluaq,” said Emily Kattuk, Mayor of Sanikiluaq. “Families often commented on how the funds will help them buy food and how it will help their family.”
While the 2023 Emergency Food Access Grant provided increased access to emergency food for those who need it most, food banks will need continued support to end the hunger crisis.