As Canadians gather to enjoy a meal this Thanksgiving, a rising number of people across the country are relying on food banks.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada’s more than 4,700 food banks saw about 1.1 million visits each month, according to Tania Little, chief development and partnerships officer for Food Banks Canada.
“With the pandemic dragging on, we’re continuing to see large increases in people that are coming through their doors,” Little said. “They’re seeing increases anywhere between 50 and 200 per cent, of new people walking through the door every day.”
She said the increases have been seen in local food banks across the country, but it’s been especially pronounced in large cities like Vancouver.
Demand for food banks tends to surge in the fall and winter, but it has risen more than expected so far this year, Little said.
She encouraged everyone who can to donate money, time or non-perishable goods to their local food bank, noting that money and volunteer hours are especially valuable.
Monetary donations allow food banks to purchase items directly, often in bulk, and to focus on fresh produce, protein and dairy products that complement the non-perishable foods that are typically donated, according to Little.
She also noted that, while donations are essential to keeping food banks operating, structural change is necessary to reduce the demand for food banks in the first place.
“The charitable food banking system, in and of itself, isn’t meant to solve the issues of food insecurity,” Little said. “We’re really here to help address those short-term needs every day in communities.”
Another important part of Food Banks Canada’s mission, according to Little, is to advocate for policies that will reduce food insecurity. She listed access to housing, child care and a living wage as examples.
“Those kinds of policies actually create income security for people, and we know that the best way to address food insecurity long-term is to really work and get good policy put in place to address those needs,” Little said.