If you’ve been debating about helping out any of the food drives going on you might want to know that food bank use has been increasing in various regions in recent years. In fact according to the annual Hamilton Hunger Report the number of visits in March of this year set a new record, nearly 23,000. That’s a 5% increase from the year before but the alarming reveal this year is that the number of children lining up to a food bank grew by 10% in Hamilton. Children make up 40% of people who go hungry in Hamilton and that’s a disturbing fact.
One of the primary drivers of food bank use is the lack of affordable housing options for Hamiltonians with low incomes. In Hamilton, households who access a food bank spend, on average, more than 50% of their income on housing, increasing the risk of displacement or homelessness. According to the report only 11% of households spend 30% or less on housing, 33% spend between 30% and 49% and 56% spend more than 50%. Just to give a bit of insight into those numbers, paying 30% to 49% puts households at high risk of homelessness. Paying 50% or more of household income puts households at extreme risk of homelessness.
And in a discussion with the CBC, The Food Bank of Waterloo Region CEO Wendi Campbell says food bank use by single people has doubled in just five years. The fact that nearly half of food bank users across the country are single people surprised Chris Hatch, CEO of Food Banks Canada. “We’ve never seen the rate this high before,” he said, noting seniors are the fastest rising group of single people who are seeking help from food banks. This information comes from the Hunger Report which makes recommendations on how to fix the issue.
- Support the creation of affordable early learning and childcare across the country.
- Increase supports for single adults living with low incomes.
- Immediately implement the Canada Housing Benefit (the federal government introduced a new national housing strategy in 2017).
- Develop pilot projects toward a basic income for all Canadians.
- Reduce northern food insecurity.
But these are all items only members of various levels of government can take on. So what can the average individual do? One thing is to support your local food banks in what ever way you are able, whether that is financially, with food items, or with donations of time; they need the support. Also, having as much information and sharing it as you can is another way to help. The more people who are aware of a problem the better able we are to fix it.
And as Joanne Santucci, Executive Director Hamilton Food Share, said “Never let the thought of 9,000 visits from children every month be a routine statistic. Never believe child hunger is a condition beyond our control. Without healthy food, children are at risk for cognitive impairments affecting their ability to learn. This should bring every policy maker to the table with a focused political will for change.”