More Albertans are reaching out for help when it comes to making sure there’s enough food on the table.
And when compared to the rest of the country, Alberta ranks among the hardest hit provinces in terms of food bank usage.
A new report from Food Banks Canada shows that since 2019, there has been a 29.6 per cent increase in the number of people accessing food banks.
The 2021 HungerCount Report compared numbers in March 2021 to those of March 2019.
The report uses March as an indicator of average usage, and no data was collected in 2020 since the organization didn’t want to burden local food banks already dealing with the pandemic.
In March 2021, 116,396 Albertans visited food banks, and of those, 45 per cent were families.
The report also highlights that 44,586 visits were made by children under the age of 18, and includes those who accessed programs through schools, such as breakfast or lunch programs.
Arianna Scott, the interim CEO of Food Banks Alberta, said the rapid increase over two years is staggering.
“Food banks are here for emergencies, but to see the numbers skyrocket so much is really a blow to us,” said Scott.
She points to recent increases in housing and food costs for being the main reasons more Albertans are turning to food banks.
“A lot of the [pandemic] emergency supports that have been available have been kind of masking the underlying issues with our economy,” explained Scott. “Everything is piling together into this crazy storm that we are bracing for come the new year.”
Scott is also concerned that the coming months will also force food banks to have to do more with less.
“We’re bracing ourselves because the food banks have had to spend a lot of extra money on food purchases, and community donations have been low because our community has been hurting as well,” said Scott.
Calgary Food Bank CEO James McAra said Calgary is seeing even more clients than the provincial average.
“We’ve seen increases across the board, not just in a particular month,” said McAra. “We’re seeing families turning to us more and more because as the pandemic drags on the challenges drag on for every single family.”
McAra insists that Calgary will be able to handle the rise in demand, adding that Calgarians have always been generous when it comes to helping those in need.
“If we are able to step back from [the uncertainties] and give everybody that virtual hug, it says it’s okay, we’ve got this,” said McAra. “There are great volunteers and there is great support for our community organizations.”
The Calgary Food bank has a wish list on its website which includes:
- Canned Meat (chicken, ham, tuna, but not Spam, please!)
- Canned Fruit
- Canned Tomatoes
- Dry Soup in a Cup
- Baby Food (with a best before date is Dec. 2021 or later)
- Baby Formula
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