As is demonstrated in this report, food bank use remains at historical levels. While food banks are doing everything that they can to help those in need, they are not able to address the root causes of why people need their support.
This is because the root cause of food bank use is, and always has been, related to poverty and low income – and these root causes can be most directly addressed through government policies.
Over the last year, the federal government has taken important steps towards reducing poverty and the need for food banks in Canada.
The federal government’s long-awaited release of Opportunity for All: Canada’s First Poverty Reduction Strategy was welcomed by Food Banks Canada as a sign that the federal government is serious in its intent to significantly reduce poverty over the next decade. The strategy lays a good foundation upon which to build with the creation of a new official poverty line and sets out clear targets and measurements to monitor poverty reduction over the coming years.
These are positive and important steps, but it is clear that much more still needs to be done if we are to reach the intended goals of significantly reducing poverty, and food bank use, in Canada.
Good intentions and well laid out strategies alone will not be enough to meet Food Banks Canada’s vision of a Canada where no one goes hungry.
To that end, implementing the following policy recommendations are essential if the federal government wants to meet the targets set forth in its poverty reduction strategy and ultimately reduce the need for food banks.
The Hunger Stop – Lanark County Food Bank Carleton Place, Ontario
The Hunger Stop – Lanark County Food Bank is a lifeline when it is needed most. “Those in the community who come to us,” says Karin Nakamura, Manager, “have exhausted most of their resources.” They see the food bank as a last resort and they may even feel ashamed or anxious about getting help. When they speak to staff or volunteers, they are often surprised to learn The Hunger Stop offers more than food. Those in need leave The Hunger Stop with a sense of support, understanding, and resources, all without judgement. The Hunger Stop helps to improve circumstances to allow their community to rise to a better situation, where the services of the food bank are no longer necessary.
There are many circumstances that could result in the need for a food bank. A job loss could exhaust savings, accumulate debt, or force someone to sell their assets to feed their family. Illness can create an unexpected situation, causing worry about where the next meal will come from. There should never be stigma around food bank use. It’s another hurdle that creates unnecessary shame and anxiety about asking for a helping hand.
The Hunger Stop’s approach is always dignified. Like food banks from coast to coast to coast, they treat people with respect and understanding while helping them to regain their capacity to move forward. If people need to join a community assistance program, The Hunger Stop will connect them, if people need training and tools to get back on their feet, they’ll find a way provide it.
Food banks help our communities get back on their feet when they need it the most.
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.