Inflation and Gaps in Support Drive Record Food Bank Usage in Canada

Food bank visits in Canada have reached an alarming new high this year, driven by the escalating cost of living, according to the Food Banks Canada HungerCount 2023 report released today. 

In March, visits to food banks across the country surged to nearly two million, marking a 32.1% increase compared to March 2022 and a substantial 78.5% rise since March 2019.

The primary factors contributing to this surge in food bank usage, as per the report, are persistent inflation and gaps in social support systems. Relentless inflation and a broken social safety net have pushed people who never anticipated relying on food banks to seek assistance for the first time, stated Kirstin Beardsley, chief executive of Food Banks Canada.

Related: Food Bank Dependency Hits New Highs in the UK, Canada

Notably, the report reveals that the proportion of employed individuals accessing food banks has risen to nearly 17%, an all-time high. This figure is significantly higher than in 2019 when only 12% of food bank visitors listed employment as their primary source of income.

Source: Food Banks Canada

Key drivers behind the increased demand for food banks are cited as elevated grocery prices, soaring housing costs, low wages, and reduced working hours. Grocery prices have escalated by 18% over the past two years, with a slight slowdown in recent months but still remaining well above the 4% headline inflation rate.

Source: Food Banks Canada

Efforts to address these challenges are underway, with the federal government taking steps to reduce the cost of groceries, including negotiations with major retailers and manufacturers. However, Food Banks Canada is calling for comprehensive governmental action to tackle affordability issues, emphasizing the urgent need for housing solutions and enhanced social support programs.

The organization is also urging governments to implement reforms to Employment Insurance, the Canada Worker Benefit, and wage policies, particularly for individuals with low-income jobs.

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