According to the Canada Annual survey, the number of Canadians who are seeking the services of food banks has gone down a bit, however, the steady demand indicates that numerous are still suffering from the slowed economic recovery.
The annual survey indicates that that individuals who visited food banks was higher than 851,000 as of March 2011. The figure is lower than what was registered last year but higher than prerecession days.
These figures indicate the diversity of the recipients: close to 100,000 are new users; a fifth of them have some kind of job; more than a tenth are immigrants or refugees.
The use of food-banks is a good indicator on the performance of a society. According to Craig Alexander, who is an economist in Toronto-Dominion Bank, food-bank usage gives a true picture of the problems being faced by the less fortunate.
He said that the increase in use reflects changes in the economy. Even though most of the jobs have been recouped, they may not be well paying as prior to the recession. It can also be noted that globalization, outsourcing and technological changes have cut down jobs (1).
The global notion that Canada is doing better that other countries in the same category fails to take note of the pressures it takes from the low income groups as noted by Mr. Alexander (1).
The results of the survey indicate that 18% of those who seek food-bank services are first time workers who are still poor. This situation applies many people Chris Kozloff, 48, whose salary and that of her husband pays just over the minimum wage (1). Similarly, John Kaliel a resident of Edmonton, has spent many years work for telecom but was involved in accident and thus he has to rely on a disability pay and spends almost all the amount on rent.
Many other individuals are in this situation and have to line-up to receive rations from the food-bank. The survey indicates that most of the recipients are women and girls, 10% aboriginal, 25% from families with both parents and children, 7% own homes and lastly 4% are post secondary students.
A host of challenges are facing food donations to the banks, according to Ms. Schmidt, the director, many agencies are facing challenges such as limited food access, lack of funds and rising costs of transportation due to high gas prices. As a result many food-banks are struggling to fill the gap left.
Food banks were started in 1980s as a temporary measure to cushion factory or forestry workers who were loosing jobs then, but have remained relevant especially in the post recession period.
As noted by John Stapleton, Metcalf Foundation, the welfare rates have not been revised to match inflation levels. For instance, in Ontario, the low income earners spent almost all their salary on rent and thus left with very little money for food (1).
Mr. Stapleton advocates for the return of welfare statistics that will form a good indicator of the trends and provide basis for proper planning.
It’s also noted that the income gap has widened in Canada than most of all other countries in the same category.
Besides these report, the survey has a list of recommendations such as: the provision of affordable housing and updating the EI so that it reflects the current reality.
If such measures are not undertaken then vital services such as healthcare will definitely rise as pointed out by Ms. Schmidt (1).
Tavia G. Stretched food banks a measure of Canada’s frail recovery. The Globe and Mail 2011 Nov 1