Charitable food programs across Canada are bracing for a 60 per cent increase in the number of people who need help putting food on their table in 2023.
The statistics come from a recent report by Ontario’s Second Harvest, Canada’s largest food rescue organization, that showed 70 per cent of the more than 1,300 non-profit food organizations surveyed need both food and funding.
“This last year we actually relied on Food Banks Alberta for 225,000 pounds of food and we did have to call upon the Calgary Food Bank to send us two truckloads of food as well,” said Mitch Thomson, executive director of Red Deer Food Bank, who added that a couple of big donation events didn’t happen in 2022.
“The demand outstripped what was available locally, and we’re not seeing that trend likely to change in the next six to eight months, or even a year.”
He said his food bank did not fill out the Second Harvest survey but agreed that a 60 per cent increase in demand in Red Deer is possible. So far January has already been incredibly busy.
“We hope, but we’re not expecting to have a lull this year based on the economy, our own food stocks and just what we’re hearing.”
He said the shelves at the food bank didn’t quite fill up from Christmas donations. There are no extra pallets of food waiting in the wings to help them get through the year.
“Our ability to continue to purchase the foods we need to keep up with the demand is a real stretch, so those monetary donations we received over the Christmas were amazing.”
He said 65 per cent of donations come in as $20s, $50s or more from citizens who contribute what they can, when they can.
“Food banks have operated off the good nature of citizens. Every little bit helps.”
Thomson said recent provincial grants are helpful, but better policies are also needed. Ungraded eggs could feed clients, but food banks can’t give them out if they’re not graded. Adequate benefits for people on social assistance are also needed.
Lori Nikkel, CEO of Second Harvest, said there is no resolution in sight for Canada’s food insecurity problem.
“The end of Covid supports, food inflation and flat wages are all contributing to increased reliance on food charity. Without systemic change, food insecurity will only get worse in Canada,” Nikkel said in a statement.
“More charitable food programs will not decrease food insecurity in Canada. More food charity is only treating the problem, not finding a solution.”