Over 840,000 Canadians – for a variety of reasons- are forced to use Canada’s food banks each month. The route that brought them there may be different, but the reason is the same; they are hungry. According to Food Banks Canada, four million Canadians are “food Insecure” a term to describe those who “did not have access to a sufficient variety or quantity of food due to lack of money.” That’s 10% of Canadians.
“Once you hit a million of anything, it can become difficult to think about that thing concretely. The idea of 4 million food insecure people can be tough to get your head around. It helps to break the big number down into smaller bites. For example, in 2012:
– 310,000 Canadian adults had times when they were hungry, but couldn’t afford to eat.
– 190,000 households were unable to feed their children a balanced meal because they didn’t have money to purchase food.
– 18,000 households were forced to reduce the size of their children’s meals because they didn’t have enough food.
– 200,000 Canadian adults actually lost weight because they couldn’t afford to buy food.[i]
It should be noted that the research behind these numbers does not include people who are homeless, or people living on First Nations reserves, where food security is perhaps most precarious.”- Food Banks Canada
The people that do use food banks come from all walks of life. A third are children or youth. The rest are people laid off from their jobs with little or no savings, people with old age or disability pensions who are stretched to the limit, people on social assistance…since 2008 the use of Canada’s food banks has increased 25%!
Some academics have called for the closure of food banks altogether, a bold proposal intended to motivate all levels of government to address poverty head on. That day is far, far away. Until then we have discovered something that might help food banks during times when donations fall off.
An initiative called Gratitude Bag has recently launched a program to raise awareness about the plight of those in need, and has instituted an innovative, hands on way for those of us blessed, or fortunate to be in a position of not being in need; a way for us to help out. Gratitude Bag provides us with the following grim statistics gathered right here in our city:
– Toronto’s food banks get over 1,123,000 visits every year.
-45% of the visitors to Toronto’s Food Banks are seriously ill or injured
-59% of visitors have gone without food just to pay rent
-The average food bank client spends over 70% of their income on rent, leaving them with just under six dollars a day for food.
-visits to Toronto’s food banks has increased 18% since 2008
-32% of food banks visitors are children, 25% of whom go hungry every week
Compounding the situation is the fact that donations to food banks surge around the holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving, but are actually down in the summer, when the need is greatest, with kids out of school, and many of us who regularly or periodically help out are away for summer vacations, or at the cottage and just not dropping off a can or two like we so often do when we shop.
In a nutshell, here’s how the Gratitude Bag program works: you contact them, a volunteer leaves a bag on your doorstep, you fill it up with non-perishable items, the volunteers pick it up after 6 pm. Suggested items are cans of proteins like beans and legumes, meats, tuna, sardines etc, canned fruits and vegetables as well as soup and dried/dehydrated fruit, complex carbohydrates like whole grain crackers and pasta, brown rice, quinoa etc.
Packing a gratitude bag is a great way to help out your fellow men, women and children in a real way; you know where the money is going, you know that the money you spent is going directly to those in need. Next time you are shopping, why not have the kids help you pick out a few items for the Gratitude Bag, and make it their deal?