A recent report, HungerCount 2012, says that the number of Canadians turning to food banks for help is at an all-time high, with 882,000 people (339,000 of them children) seeking some assistance from a food bank this year.
After dipping slightly in 2011, food bank use in Canada increased by 2.4 per cent this year, and is now 31 per cent higher than before the 2008-2009 recession.
Right here in Kimberley, food bank usage is up 7 per cent, says Food Bank director Heather Smith.
A slight bit of good news is that the increase this year is a little less than the year before when 10 per cent more people accessed the food bank.
“But we still have a lot of people,” Smith said.
And a lot of them are children in Kimberley as well. Smith says the Food Bank handed out regular hampers to 874 children and their families, and emergency hampers to 563.
As the Food Bank gears up for the Christmas season, Smith expects between 190 and 200 seasonal hampers to go out as well.
Fundraising for the Christmas hampers is underway, but the Food Bank continues to rely on donations for regular hampers as well.
“So far donations are a little slow for this time of year, but that will pick up,” Smith said. “We are still supported very well by the community.”
Many of the Food Bank’s clientele are the working poor, or seasonal workers. Smith says they often see a little easing in January as the ski hill is in full operation and many casual workers begin to see their first pay cheques.
“The ski hill is opening a little earlier this year, if there’s snow, so that will help. Once they start getting bookings, the housekeepers and waitresses go back to work. Hopefully by January things will get a little better, but then in winter, you have the utility bills much higher and of course, groceries have gone up substantially.”
The HungerCount 2012 study also found that:
11 per cent of those receiving food each month – 93,000 people – are accessing a food bank for the first time.
One in five households assisted by food banks have income from current or recent employment.
21 per cent of households helped are living on an old age or disability pension.
Half of households receiving food are families with children.