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Food bank use up, especially in Alberta

By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News


OTTAWA (CCN) — This year’s HungerCount 2015 report reveals food bank use in Canada has risen for the second consecutive year and remains at near record levels.

More than 800,000 people used food banks in the month of March 2015 alone and about 300,000 were children, said Food Banks Canada executive director Katharine Schmidt at a Nov. 17 news conference.

While food bank use is 1.3 per cent higher this year than last, it is “a troubling” 26 per cent higher than in 2008, the year of the global economic downturn, she said.

Alberta has been especially hard hit with the drop in oil prices leading to the loss of 35,000 jobs, she said. Unemployment has gone up 10 per cent, but food bank use has risen “a shocking” 23 per cent last year.

Food Banks Canada made three recommendations that can help alleviate the need for Food Banks:

• Invest in affordable housing so people do not have to pay 70 to 80 per cent of their income for accommodation

• Invest in education and skills training to help people find well-paying jobs

• Increase access in the North to traditional foods and store bought foods at lower prices

“We are pleased to see that Prime Minister Trudeau has a plan that closely mirrors the recommendations we have made in successive HungerCount reports,” Schmidt said. “This gives us hope and a belief that there will be action at the federal level.”

“We are excited at the prospect of moving forward in a positive and constructive way with the new federal government to significantly reduce the need for food banks in Canada,” she said.

Food Banks Canada represents 550 food banks across Canada running about 3,000 programs to feed the hungry.

In the Letter of Mandate to the new Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, Trudeau instructed Minister Jean-Yves Duclos to “lead the development of a Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy that would set targets to reduce poverty and measure and publicly report on our progress.”

Trudeau also asked him to prioritize infrastructure spending on affordable housing.

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