Every province in Canada except for Newfoundland and Labrador have shown significant increases in food bank use. The increases are much higher in the northern areas of Nunavut, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories where the increase combined is 247 percent since 2008. The prairie provinces Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba have around a 50 percent increase. A map of the increases by province can be found here. The appended map is just to 2013.
In 2012, 70 percent of Canadian households reliant on social assistance were also food insecure. Those on social assistance make up at least half of those using food banks. The food distributed by the food banks appears not sufficient to change the food insecurity of those on social assistance. Although the food banks distribute over 200 million pounds annually this amount comes nowhere the needs of those needing their help.
Income is the prime determinant of food access. Income-related policies such as an increase in the minimum wage are needed as well as increases in assistance rates. The situation is particularly bad at present because the low value of the Canadian dollar makes the price of imported vegetables and fruit quite expensive. It means that food banks too spend more for less vegetables and fruits.
In many cases minimum wage jobs are the sole source of income for many households. In the province of British Columbia 80 percent of such jobs are held by those 20 and over. Almost half of these are held by workers 35 or older. Poverty remains in households where individuals have jobs. In 2012, a study found that at least one member of the household worker in at least 44 per cent of poor households. To make the situation worse temporary, low paying jobs are increasing while well-paying jobs are becoming more scarce.
In the Greater Toronto Area the situation is exacerbated by high rents. A recent report by the Daily Bread Food Bank, claims that food bank users surveyed said that just $6.13 per person was left over per day after rent was paid. The report also found that users spent 71 percent of their income on rent and utilities. It should be no surprise that food bank use is increasing.
Canada needs to invest more to prevent food insecurity. Better policies in the area of housing, social assistance, and income are necessary rather than increasing reliance on food banks.
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Ken is a retired philosophy professor living in the boondocks of Manitoba, Canada, with his Filipina wife. He enjoys reading the news and writing articles. Politically Ken is on the far left of the political spectrum on many issues.