HungerCount Report 2021 shows impact of ‘perfect storm’ on food bank use
WALKERTON – According to Dianne Waram, manager of the Walkerton and District Food Bank, statistics show that experiences at the local food bank are consistent with reports from across rural Canada.
As noted in a press release accompanying the 2021 HungerCount report, Canadian food bank visits increased by over 20 percent during the pandemic, topping 1.3 million visits in March 2021 — the largest increase since the 2008 recession.
One in four grocery banks saw demand increase by more than 50 percent.
Maryanne Buehlow, Treasurer of the Walkerton and District Food Bank, said that “while local numbers have not skyrocketed – they will; You can see it happening.”
The 2021 Food Banks Canada HungerCount Report found that a volatile combination of high housing costs, pandemic job losses, rising food costs and an expected further decline in government support is creating a “perfect storm” that has sent Canada’s food banks on a “tidal wave” of new customers into the United States coming months.
Buehlow said many locals were surprised to learn that “people live under the bridge and in the bush” in Walkerton. This is because of the same high housing costs and low incomes seen across Canada.
The landmark HungerCount report – the only research study to include the country’s more than 4,750 food banks and community organizations – shows the clear impact of the pandemic, which is exacerbating poverty, food insecurity and hunger in Canada, and advocates long-term social programs to help the population – Incomes and jobless Canadians weather the storm.
HungerCount 2021 reports that Canadians visited 1.3 million food banks in March 2021 – a 20.3 percent increase from March 2019.
Key findings include the following:
• A third of the clients are children, although they make up only 19 percent of the total population.
• Twenty-seven percent of Canadians who access food banks receive fixed incomes such as pensions or disability benefits.
• Demand for food banks in larger urban centers was more likely due to job losses.
• City panels were also more likely to be used by racist communities than panels in other regions.
“We must make a critical decision between returning to a ‘pre-pandemic’ cycle of poverty or building a better Canada, where no one goes hungry and poverty is tackled at its roots,” said David Armor, interim CEO of Food Banks Canada.
“Early on in the pandemic, government housing and income support helped dampen demand at Canada’s food banks, but in recent months visits have started to pick up, with nearly one in seven food banks seeing a doubling in demand — and food bank visits in Quebec have skyrocketed , Alberta and Ontario,” he said.
The provinces with the largest increases in demand compared to 2019 are Quebec – 474,000 visits, a 38 percent increase; Ontario – 419,000 visits, a 23 percent increase; and Alberta – 116,000 visits, a 29.6 percent increase.
social security network
According to HungerCount 2021, the power of COVID-19-related government support such as the CERB and housing relief efforts at food banks was felt immediately and helped temporarily flatten food bank visits by supporting vulnerable Canadians affected by the pandemic were hit hard.
“Our experience during the pandemic proves that good social policies have a significant impact on reducing food insecurity when they truly address the root causes of low income, unemployment, housing costs and poverty,” said Kirstin Beardsley, Food Banks chief network services officer Canada.
Beardsley explained that Food Banks Canada is calling for five steps to repair Canada’s broken and outdated social safety nets to stem the tidal wave of rising poverty and food insecurity Canada faces in the coming months.
HungerCount 2021 recommends new supports for low-income renters.
Sixty-seven percent of current grocery bank customers live in rental apartments.
46 percent of Canadians now say the cost of housing is the biggest barrier to sourcing groceries — up from 21 percent in 2020.
The government is being urged to immediately implement a national rent support program based on an expanded version of Canada’s housing benefit so that Canadians struggling to afford their rent have access to support while the rest of the national housing strategy takes effect.
The government is also being asked to modernize and expand support for the low-wage and unemployed.
HungerCount 2021 advocates a major overhaul of Canada’s legacy EI policy, benefits and eligibility requirements – including allowing workers to keep more income while claiming EI, permanently expanding eligibility to “self-employed” Canadians, creating a strategy for hiring people with disabilities – and government incentives for employers who offer living wages.
“It’s time to build a Canada that leaves no one behind. That means taking a new approach to a social safety net that creates a minimum income floor so every Canadian has the support they need to rise and thrive,” said Beardsley, who explained that HungerCount 2021 takes a phased approach to the work recommends provinces to test and pilot new and progressive minimum income floor programs aimed at breaking the cycle of poverty.
Almost half of all people who need help from a Tafel are adults living alone. Single adults are grossly overrepresented in panels, and one-third of all single adults in Canada live in poverty. It is crucial to make low-income, single, working-age adults a priority in all future anti-poverty responses, including expanded and modernized EI and mental health support, to ensure this vulnerable population is no longer left behind will.
“Food insecurity in the North remains a major concern for Food Banks Canada and we anticipate the continued impact of the pandemic over the coming months, thoughtful and progressive minimum income reforms, the creation of a new North Development and Recovery Plan and upskilling opportunities will require,” he told Bartsley.
HungerCount 2021 also recommends working with the newly formed Inuit-to-Crown task force to initiate a comprehensive review of Nutrition North Canada to determine why the program is only minimally meeting its goals of reducing food costs in the North.
HungerCount is the only national research study of food banks and other nutrition programs in Canada – and was initiated by Food Banks Canada in 1989. The information provided in the report provides invaluable insight into the root causes of food insecurity and poverty issues in Canada.
While the Walkerton and District Food Bank has a good stock of many items, there are always gaps. The easiest way to fill them is with a monetary donation, which allows food bank staff to buy essentials, often at a discount, from their suppliers.
Buehlow said the items that are currently in short supply are nutritional supplements like Boost and Certain, and non-food items — facial tissues, toothbrushes and toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner, laundry detergent and dishwashing liquid, adult incontinence briefs (male and female). ) and socks – all sizes.
Food needs include pasta sauce, canned fruit, instant coffee, pancake mix and syrup, juice and juice packs, canned meat, and school snacks.
For more information on how you can help your local board meet the needs in this community or if you need assistance, please call 519-881-0168.