When the Cupboard is Bare, Who Will Feed the Hungry?
Advocacy BC, November 17, 2010.
With the release of the release of the HungerCount 2010 survey, the only annual national survey of food bank use in Canada, the evidence of a growing population of Canadian citizens who are falling behind is clear.
Highlights from this report include the following:
· Food bank use has grown in every province in 2010;
· 867,948 people across Canada used food banks in March 2010. This represents a 9.2 % increase, or more than 73,000 people compared with numbers from 2009;
· 80,150 people, or 9.2 %, used a food bank for the first time;
· 38% of those assisted by food banks were children under 18;
· Half of assisted households are families with children;
· 17 per cent of households that used food banks have employment income;
· 7 % of assisted households have a pension as their primary source of income.
The face of poverty in BC and Canada is changing. Many more citizens who have lost their jobs as resource and manufacturing sectors have contracted due to domestic and global economic conditions are seeing declines in individual and family income. Additional impacts can be seen, these include:
· BC has led Canada in child poverty for seven consecutive years, with the majority of poor children living with their families, often in single parent families;
· Individuals are exhausting their unemployment benefits with no employment available to the thousands who have lost their jobs;
· Individuals who have never before applied for income assistance are being forced to do so, with rising costs to provincial governments;
· More and more individuals are being forced to take temporary, part-time and insecure employment to survive;
· Increasing rates of poverty for many seniors is impacting their ability to afford the necessities of life on fixed incomes;
· High costs for housing and a lack of rent controls often place renters into unstable housing situations with fewer and fewer shelter options;
· Increases in utilities, such as heating costs, carbon taxes and the introduction of the Harmonized Sales tax (HST) are impacting the cost of living of many middle and lower socio-economic class citizens, leaving them with less to spend on things such as food;
In spite of these worsening economic conditions, both the Canadian and provincial governments are paying little attention to the warning signs of Canada’s crisis and ignoring the calls for poverty reduction plans. As conditions worsen, the demand for community and social services will increase, but by stealth, millions in government and gaming funds have been cut from the budgets of these support services around the province.
Advocacy BC joins the calls of those who say all levels of government must commit to a poverty reduction plan which includes the following strategies:
· Increased funding of affordable housing for those at high-risk, including families, seniors, people with mental, physical and developmental disabilities;
· Raising the minimum wage in BC and increasing the rates for income and disability assistance, with supports that encourage and facilitate individuals in transitioning into the workforce;
· Increased access and subsidies for affordable early learning and child care;
· Address the low rates of income for seniors;
· Work together to create a federal housing strategy wherein the Canadian government begins to fund provincial affordable housing infrastructure;
· Maintain current levels of federal transfer payments to provincial, territorial, and First Nations governments for health and education;
· Stop cutting and increase funding of the social safety net and the social infrastructure which supports individuals and families in their communities in times of need.
The cupboard is bare for a growing number of Canadians who are looking to their governments for leadership. A civil and just society ensures that it’s most vulnerable citizens are cared for in a compassionate and humane manner. Advocacy BC asks our leaders how will BC and Canada feed our hungry citizens? What are you doing to ensure that our social contract remains intact and that our province and country retains its standing as a civil society?
Tracey Young, MSW, RSW
Editor of Advocacy BC
(see page 20-21 for details)
94,359 individuals were assisted, March 2010
+5% change since March 2009
30% are children
11% report employment income
6% receive Employment Insurance
44% receive social assistance
21% receive disability-related income supports
60% of food banks saw an increase
The number of two-parent families requiring help has increased from 18.7% in 2009 to 19.9% in 2010.