Food banks across the country are readying themselves for a tidal wave of new clients as the holiday season approaches.
In a report released by Food Banks Canada, the charitable organization has concluded that a combination of high housing costs, pandemic job losses, rising food costs, and an anticipated further pull-back on government supports will hit local food banks hard in the months ahead.
HungerCount 2021 examined 4,750 food banks and community organizations across the country to study the impact of the pandemic on people living below the poverty line, and food insecurity and hunger in the nation.
The study detailed that in March 2021 Canadians made 1.3 million visits to food banks, a 20.3 per cent increase over March 2019. And the largest increase in visits since the 2008 recession.
The Friends In Need Food Bank in Maple Ridge is registering new clients on a weekly basis, said executive director Mary Robson.
In October 33 new clients registered at the local food bank.
However, said Robson, they have not seen a marked increase in the total number actively using the food bank.
“Our clients receive a monthly hamper of staples and can attend the food bank once per week to receive extras and perishables,” she explained, adding that the food bank benefits from the Perishable Food Recovery Program which provides a variety of fresh foods such as milk, eggs, cheese, yogurts, produce, baked goods, meat and fish.
“This food is time sensitive, but it does provide a source of food which we would not otherwise purchase,” said Robson. This means that not all clients attend every week, she said.
In the HungerCount report, 46 per cent of households using food banks across Canada are single adult households. That percentage is higher at the Friends In Need Food Bank at 58 per cent. Single parent households make up 17.8 per cent of households across the country and 8.7 per cent at the local food bank. Seniors make up 8.7 per cent of food bank users in Canada, but a whopping 35 per cent locally. Nationally 33.3 per cent of users are children and 27 per cent locally, and those on disability support make up 16.2 per cent across the country and 22.5 per cent at the Maple Ridge food bank.
Robson has seen a steady increase in the number of seniors needing assistance, a need that doesn’t seem to be decreasing. And her team also sees a higher number of people on disability than the national average.
“Going into the Christmas season we are excited that events for food drives and fundraisers are happening this year,” noted Robson.
But, she added, this is a year of restraint, as they continue to operate with a reduced number of volunteers due to COVID protocols.
“And with the cost of food increasing, we anticipate a growing demand,” she said.
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