OTTAWA – More Canadians are relying on food banks to put food on the table, a report released Tuesday suggests.
The report by Food Banks Canada says last March some 863,492 people turned to a food bank, a 1.3 per cent increase over March 2015 and a 28 per cent rise over 2008.
The report found that food banks in eight out of 10 provinces saw increased traffic with the biggest jumps in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and the three territories.
Only Manitoba and Ontario didn’t see increased usage compared to 2015.
Nova Scotia food banks saw a 20.9 per cent increase in users from 2015, while Alberta and Saskatchewan both saw 17 per cent increases.
Food Banks Canada says the higher usage is driven by short term economic disruption and the failure of government to adequately support people who face tough times.
It noted that more than one-third of those fed by groceries from food banks were under the age of 18.
The report recommends the Liberal government among other things fast track a poverty reduction strategy and revamp the welfare system in Canada.
“Social assistance traps Canadians in poverty rather than helping them to escape it,” the report says.
“It is based in a culture of suspicion and distrust rather than one of support and mutual aid.”
Food Banks Canada recommends that the bar be lowered in terms of the value of liquid assets a household is allowed to have while getting welfare and that benefits not be reduced if welfare recipients are able to earn extra cash through work.
For the longer term it calls for the creation of a basic income for Canadians that would be administered through the tax system, allowing governments to “dismantle existing provincial/territorial social assistance bureaucracies.”
It also recommends the government strengthen an existing northern nutrition program to ensure northerners in isolated communities have access to nutritious food.
The report based its findings on figures from food banks on who received groceries during March. Food Banks Canada has picked March as the period for its study because it is a normal month without any predicable high or low use patterns.
Food Banks Canada, which supports provincial associations, food banks and food agencies that work at the community level, is to hold a news conference in Ottawa later Tuesday to talk about the report.