1. HungerCount 2018

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What number of visits will make us finally take action?


The driving factor behind food bank use is poverty. Economic disruptions, low incomes, and government policies that don’t provide adequate support are what keep the number of food bank users persistently and unacceptably high. Food banks from coast to coast to coast are there when people must choose between shelter, clothing, and feeding their family. While it is essential that people in need have access to food today, changes in government policy to support people out of poverty are what will truly drive down the number of people turning to food banks across Canada.

Each March, Food Banks Canada surveys thousands of food banks across Canada to provide a snapshot of current food bank use. The HungerCount report establishes an up to date understanding of hunger in Canada in order to support advocacy for change. This report provides an overview of these findings as well as policy recommendations to reduce the need for food banks.

For HungerCount 2018, Food Banks Canada has updated its methodology and is reporting visits, not individuals, as the core metric to better demonstrate food bank use and the need for food banks across Canada. This is a new baseline number for 2018 and should not be compared to previous HungerCount reports as these numbers aren’t comparable.

59.0% of households accessing food banks list social assistance or disability-related supports as primary source of income.


There is a wide array of people helped by food banks, including children, seniors, single parents, working adults and people living with disabilities.

Children are over-represented in food bank use compared to the overall population. Single-parent households are also over-represented in food bank use compared to their share of the population. Single person households represent an alarming 45.1% of the households accessing food bank support. 59.0% of those who receive support from food banks indicate that social assistance or disability-related supports as their primary source of income.


Every day, food banks work with their communities to acquire the food required to support those in need through donations and purchases. Some food banks – “hubs” – distribute food to community agencies like food pantries, shelters, and after school programs that rely on food to deliver their support. Other food banks serve people directly with a selection of food to help people stretch their dollars… and some food banks do both. Throughout this report, you will find stories from food banks that demonstrate how they respond to the ongoing need for their services.

Further to the day-to-day essential support provided, the food bank network across Canada—including provincial associations, food banks, and Food Banks Canada— advocates for policy change that will reduce the need for food banks. Our vision is a Canada where no one goes hungry.

35.2% of those relying on food banks nationally are children, when they only represent 20.0%* of the population.


Interfaith Food Bank Society of Lethbridge
Lethbridge, Alberta

The Interfaith Food Bank Society of Lethbridge knew it needed to innovate to accommodate the growing demand for food bank use in its community. They launched several education programs within the food bank to support those in need.

“With these fresh ideas,” says Danielle McIntyre, Executive Director, “the food bank was able to empower those we serve while strengthening our entire community.”

The Interfaith Chinook Country Kitchen is a program that teaches participants how to cook healthy meals on a limited budget. The focus is to develop wholesome relationships with food while maximizing participant resources to put more nutritious meals on the table.

SHOP SMART is a complimentary two-hour workshop that teaches participants how to reduce the stress of visiting the grocery store. People are taught how to stretch their budget to make procuring food more affordable. All of these skills are taught to support nutritious meal planning.

The Collective Kitchen initiative teaches participants how to plan a menu, create a grocery list, and prepare 5-7 days of meals as a group. The food bank provides some ingredients, and participants share the cost of the rest. By cooking collectively, they are taught to expand on the skills they’ve learned through the SHOP SMART program. The result? New healthy eating habits are formed.

The Community Garden program allows participants to grow and tend to a garden as a group. They provide the care, and the garden provides fresh and nutritious food. Participants walk away with new knowledge about how to cultivate and grow a garden and a stronger sense of community.

The Project Protein is a program designed to help food bank clients source meat sustainably from local partners. Through partnerships with producers, farmers, ranchers, and feedlot operators, animal products are sourced, prepared, and distributed to families in need.

Like the Interfaith Food Bank Society of Lethbridge, food banks across Canada work with those they serve and their local communities to find innovative ways of addressing the stubborn problem of hunger in 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.

*Statistics Canada, Census Profiles, 2016