The annual HungerCount is Food Banks Canada’s signature report documenting food bank use in Canada. It is a cross-sectional, census survey of most food bank agencies, organizations and programs, within and outside of the Food Banks Canada network. The HungerCount provides a point in time snapshot of food bank use in Canada.
Food Banks Canada is always looking for ways to improve the HungerCount report. If you have questions about the report, or ideas on how we could make this research better, we would like to hear from you. Please get in touch at email@example.com and reference HungerCount.
FOOD BANK UNIVERSE
Within the food bank network there are 10 provincial organizations; 638 provincial affiliates; 4,300 affiliate agencies; 4 direct affiliates in the 3 territories. There are also 250 known independent food banks outside the network. We achieve a 97% return rate on surveys sent to the network, and a 64% return rate on the surveys sent to the independent food banks.
The HungerCount survey is sent out to food banks in February of each year, and the data is collected for the month of March. The data continues to be collected for the month of March as the study period is an unexceptional month, without predictable high or low use patterns. Since March is used consistently, we are able to track usage patterns across time periods.
To maximize data integrity, and minimize interpretation errors, the survey includes examples of how the data is to be collected and categorized. Definitions of the categories are also included.
The survey is administered in four different ways. (1) through an online program called Link2Feed that is used by the food bank network of the Ontario Association of Food Banks, Feed Nova Scotia and approximately 20 food banks in other provinces. (2) emailed directly to food banks and meal programs through the provincial organizations in BC, AB, SK, MB, QC, NB, PE, NL and are not on the Link2Feed program. (3) via paper survey sent directly to food banks and meal programs that have limited technology and require physical surveys. (4) phone interviews were necessary in 8 cases. These are primarily non-affiliated food banks, or food banks in remote, northern locations.
A NOTE ON VISITS
In the HungerCount 2018, Food Banks Canada is reporting on the number of visits to food banks in the month of March to provide a better representation of the need for food banks across Canada. Each food bank determines the number of times people in their community can access the services of their food bank, driven by their mission, community need, and available resources. In some cases, people can visit a food bank multiple times per month while in other cases people are able to visit fewer than once per month.
ANALYZING THE DATA
Survey data are entered into a database, cleaned to ensure a robust analysis including filtering of results to include only food bank and meal programs, and verified any outliers to ensure responses did not inappropriately alter the overall results.
We recognize that error exists in any data collection process. Food Banks Canada undertakes extensive follow up with food bank outliers (those who deviate +/-25% in any given year). The analysis performed by Food Banks Canada staff used Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS). To arrive at the overall usage number, primary data is received directly from organizations. We cumulate total visits from all responding valid surveys and calculate household results using only surveys with complete data in those categories.
In cases where surveys were not completed by operating food banks, conservative estimates are produced by verifying that a food program still exists and using regional data to apply a percent increase or decrease to previously reported numbers. Outliers are removed from the regional data to ensure trends aren’t over-reported.
FOOD PROGRAMS PARTICIPATING IN HUNGERCOUNT 2018 SURVEY
In the fall of 2018, the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation (SRDC) did a review of the HungerCount methodology and made several recommendations for the coming years. Overall, SRDC has found that HungerCount is a survey program providing rich data concerning vulnerable, and typically under-represented populations. HungerCount provides a robust snapshot in any given year of food bank utilization, as well as key demographics of the populations who use food banks across Canada. Several quality control checks are in place to minimize measurement and response errors in data collection phases.
Food Banks Canada thanks the hundreds of thousands of people accessing food programs, and the thousands of staff and volunteers who, every year, contribute information to the HungerCount report. Without their efforts and participation this research would not be possible.
HungerCount2018 Provincial Coordinators:
Laura Lansink, Food Banks BC (British Columbia)
Alison Jones, Food Banks BC (British Columbia)
Stephanie Walsh-Rigby, Food Banks Alberta (Alberta)
Alison Richards, Food Banks Alberta (Alberta)
Laurie O’Connor, Saskatoon Food Bank (Saskatchewan)
Grace Weigelt, Winnipeg Harvest (Manitoba)
Amanda Colella-King, Ontario Association of Food Banks (Ontario)
Gaël Chantrel, Les Banques alimentaires du Québec (Quebec)
Laurie Stewart, New Brunswick Association of Food Banks (New Brunswick)
Chiedza Sadomba, FEED NOVA SCOTIA (Nova Scotia)
Mike MacDonald, Upper Room Food Bank (Prince Edward Island)
Eg Walters, Community Food Sharing Association (Newfoundland and Labrador)
HUNGERCOUNT WAS PREPARED BY
Kirstin Beardsley, Diana Stapleton and Phil Ozga, Food Banks Canada
Copyright 2019 Food Banks Canada. All rights reserved.
Please cite as: Food Banks Canada (2019). HungerCount 2018. Mississauga: Food Banks Canada.
Food Banks Canada provides national leadership to relieve hunger today and prevent hunger tomorrow in collaboration with the food bank network in Canada. We do this by maximizing the collective impact of the network, strengthening the local capacity of food banks, and advocating to reduce the need for food banks.