Food Banks Canada has released a new report indicating that nearly seven million Canadians are grappling with the harsh reality of putting food on their tables amidst an ongoing cost-of-living crisis and housing woes. The inaugural poverty report published by the organization provides a grim national snapshot, with most provinces receiving grades in the D-range for their efforts to combat poverty.
As reported by Global News, the findings reveal that over 42% of the population perceives their financial situation as worse than the previous year. Additionally, 18% are grappling with food insecurity, and nearly one-third admit to experiencing an insufficient standard of living. These challenges have been exacerbated by various factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the conflict in Ukraine, and inflation.
According to the Food Banks Canada report, at least 2.8 million Canadians live in poverty, with even more experiencing food insecurity. Food banks across Canada have witnessed a sharp surge in demand in recent years, with a record-breaking nearly 1.5 million visits recorded in March 2022 alone.
“Our country needs a collective and concerted effort from all levels of government to ensure that poverty growth not only slows down but actually reverses course so that we can get Canada to a place where no one is forced to turn to a food bank to make ends meet,” the report said.
While the poverty rate was down from 14.5% in 2015 to 8.1% in 2020, according to disaggregated data from the 2021 census, the poverty rate is distributed unevenly among different groups of Canadian society. Indigenous people living in urban areas experience higher rates of poverty, as do single mothers with a child five-years-old or under, at 31.3%.
The Food Banks Canada report assessed each jurisdiction based on key poverty indicators, standard of living, poverty measurement, and government policies. Nova Scotia receives the lowest grade, an F, while Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, and New Brunswick barely fared better with a dismal D-minus. Alberta and Saskatchewan earned Ds, while British Columbia received a D-plus. Manitoba and Prince Edward Island secured C-minuses while Quebec stood out with the highest grade, a B-minus. The territories received incomplete grades due to insufficient data collection.
The report makes headlines as core inflation jumped to 4% in August, primarily attributed to soaring gas prices. Grocery prices have become a major political issue, with Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland publicly calling on large grocery chains to lower their prices lest they be tagged with a grocery tax. Heads of major corporations have reportedly agreed to "work with" the government to stabilize prices before Thanksgiving on October 9.
Food Banks Canada is now urging all levels of government to take immediate action. Their recommendations includeollaboration with Indigenous communities and the creation of a specialized Employment Insurance program to support older workers.
The report emphasized the need for the government to implement long-term solutions to address poverty and income inequality, including expanding accessible social support programs and making significant investments in affordable housing and infrastructure.