Alberta has a higher ratio of workers using food banks than any other province says a new national report.
A total of 21.9 per cent of Albertans who rely on food banks have a job according to HungerCount 2014 released by Food Banks Canada on Tuesday.
That compares to 19.9 per cent of food bank users in Prince Edward Island, 16.4 in Manitoba, 14.8 in Saskatchewan, 13.5 in Nova Scotia, 11.5 in British Columbia, 10.8 in Quebec, 9.6 in New Brunswick, 9.3 in Ontario and 9.2 per cent in Newfoundland and Labrador.
The annual HungerCount uses food bank statistics from March to determine how many Canadians depend on food banks.
Alice Kolisnyk, Red Deer Food Bank deputy director, said in March the local food bank saw a two per cent increase in users, or a total of 781 people, and the typical adult client worked a low-income service job.
“Quite often our clients are two-income households, both parents are working. If it’s a single parent household quite often they have more than one job,” Kolisnyk said on Tuesday.
“It’s one job to pay for the necessities and the second job for child care.”
She said the food bank is at its busiest in March as people struggle with winter heating costs.
“All the resources have been tapped out. The winter season has drained every last penny out of people’s pockets.”
The HungerCount also showed Alberta had the highest proportion of single-parent families using food banks at 36.5 per cent. Two-parent families came in at 25.1 per cent in Alberta, which was not as high as Manitoba at 27.1 per cent and P.E.I. at 25.8.
Kolisnyk said the number of one and two-parent families that received food hampers in Red Deer held steady at about 138. The number of children dropped to 294 from 307 in 2013.
Across the country, four in 10 people who count on food banks are children.
Nationally, 36.9 per cent of those dependent on food banks were children. In Alberta, it was 42.9 per cent.
“No child should go hungry in this country. We live in an incredibly prosperous country. The situation is unacceptable,” said Katharine Schmidt, executive director of Food Banks Canada, from Toronto.
She said over the last six years in Alberta there has been a 48 per cent overall increase in food bank use — almost double the national average of 25 per cent.
In 2014, food bank use in Alberta climbed 2.3 per cent which was again higher than the national average of one per cent. A total of 841,191 Canadians used a food bank in March, including 49,766 Albertans.
Schmidt said the economy may be recovering since the recession, but many Canadians are not.
“Typically when the economy starts to get better there will be a lag but we’ll start to see food bank numbers fall. That’s not happening as much as we would have anticipated.”
She said high, sustained food bank use is due primarily to the loss of higher paying jobs and the creation of more part-time, low-paying jobs with fewer benefits, along with extremely low government supports that have not evolved with the changing economy.
“We really believe it is time to change social policy and start to see people be able to climb out of poverty,” Schmidt said.
HungerCount 2014 recommended that work needs to be done in five areas to significantly reduce the need for food b1anks in Canada:
• Invest in affordable housing at the federal level.
• Address the extremely high levels of food insecurity in Canada’s north.
• Replace the stigmatizing and ineffective social assistance bureaucracy at the provincial level with a basic income administered through the tax system.
• Provide more effective support to low-income families with children by replacing the current alphabet soup of federal child benefits with a strengthened Child Well-Being Benefit.
• Help Canadians with low levels of literacy to upgrade their skills for the jobs of today.
Kolisnyk said Red Deer Food Bank is now preparing for winter food and fundraising events including Stuff A Bus at Parkland Mall, Nov. 27 to 29.
“From the middle of November to the end of December we get 70 per cent of our donations.”