High inflation and a broken social safety net has Canada’s food banks straining under historically high demand that crested to almost 1.5 million visits in March 2022 – up 35 per cent compared to pre-pandemic visits during the same time period in 2019.
According to the newly released Food Banks Canada HungerCount 2022 report, “Canada’s food banks are facing uncharted challenges as turbulent economic conditions continue to exacerbate and deepen systemic inequities, especially for employed people earning low incomes, students and seniors on fixed incomes,” explains Food Banks Canada CEO Kirstin Beardsley.
The landmark report – the only research study encompassing the country’s 4,750+ food banks and community organizations – shows the devastating impact of rapid inflation and inadequate social supports on poverty, food insecurity and hunger in Canada.
Number of visits in March 2022
Percent change from 2021
Percent change from 2019
Hunger is affecting vulnerable populations more than ever.
- Food bank use rose to the highest levels in Canadian history in 2022.
- Food bank clients who reported employment as their main source of income increased to 14.1 per cent in 2022 vs. 12.5 per cent in 2021.
- Seniors accessing food banks has increased to 8.9 per cent vs. 6.8 per cent before the pandemic.
- One third of food bank clients are children (representing approximately 500,000 food bank visits in March 2022).
- Student visits to food banks increased to 7.1 per cent in 2022 vs. 4.7 per cent in the previous year.
- The top three reasons people accessed a food bank this year were due to food costs, low provincial social assistance rates, and housing costs.
- To create a Canada where no one is left behind, and no one goes hungry, Canada must adopt a dual approach to address the root causes of food bank use by addressing low incomes and poverty and the skyrocketing costs of living.
Taking Action to Starve the Hunger in Canada
“Food Banks Canada’s HungerCount 2022 report is a devastating wake-up call for all people living in Canada and our governments that we must take action to Starve the Hunger that is destroying communities and lives. Ending hunger in Canada is possible. We need to work together to make true and lasting change by pursuing a dual focus strategy that creates a minimum income floor for our most vulnerable populations, while working to address affordable housing, EI reform and new supports for Northern and remote parts of Canada,” says Beardsley.
Food Banks Canada Policy Recommendations: A Dual Path Toward a Better Road Ahead
HungerCount 2022 highlights how long-standing fissures in Canada’s social safety net are being exposed and exacerbated in the midst of the unprecedented economic turmoil that people in Canada have been facing over the last year.
Canada needs progress towards a minimum income floor for all.
- As it stands, some form of an income floor exists for seniors and families with children. However, singles and people living with disability are struggling. Efforts need to be made to strengthen the existing floors while introducing new ones. A disability benefit that is harmonized between governments, minimum income pilots, and more mental health supports are just some examples of what we need to get there.
Our affordable housing crisis needs immediate and long-term solutions.
- As more people continue to struggle at unprecedented rates, affordable housing supplies are still eroding and are being built too slowly. While work needs to be done to expand the development of new affordable housing, short term solutions like a national rent-assist program are needed.
As low-income workers flood food banks, Canada needs new policies that guarantee those who work will always have enough money to put food on the table.
- This means that the long-awaited EI reforms need to be introduced swiftly. Additional reforms to the CWB will also be necessary to ensure that Canadian workers with low incomes can make ends meet.
Food insecurity and poverty must get special attention in northern and remote parts of Canada.
- This region suffers from much higher rates of poverty and food insecurity than the rest of the country. Failed programs like Nutrition North must be overhauled and new locally driven approaches to develop Northern economies must also be prioritised to help support communities that have struggled for far too long.