By: Sukaina Jamil
Food insecurity in Canada is as prevalent as ever. But why are the soup cans we give away never enough? Canadian Octobers are replete with distinct events and celebrations. Among these are the annual Thanksgiving food drives held in schools and workplaces across the country, where families and individuals band together to accumulate as many bags and boxes of non-perishable food items as they can. Cabinets are emptied while people's’ hearts are fulfilled.
So then, despite this outpouring of donations early October, why is food insecurity still an issue come November? How do food banks run out of supplies by the end of the year? Now that Thanksgiving has passed, it is important to keep the conversation going about feeding those in need.
To begin understanding this issue, it is important to understand that food insecurity in Canada is a much larger issue than many are aware of. In 2012, it was reported that one in eight households in Canada were facing food insecurity. This means over four million Canadians -- and almost 1.2 million children -- are living in circumstances where they are struggling to feed themselves.
It is also important to understand that it is not just jobless or homeless people who face food insecurity. According to Food Banks Canada, one in six people who visit food banks for help are employed and struggle to get food on the table due to insufficient income and mounting expenses.
Knowing this, it’s plain to see why food banks are in such high demand. However, it may be expected that the amount of donations they receive during the Thanksgiving season should last for quite a while. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
With over 850,000 people across Canada utilizing food banks every month, the influx of Thanksgiving donations only holds these organizations over for a small amount of time. By the time the new year comes around, many food banks find themselves back in the position they were in before October. In March 2016, a reported 863,492 Canadians accessed a food bank for its services. No matter how high the volume of donations from Thanksgiving food drives may be, these numbers show that they are not enough to sustain food banks for too long.
The best way to keep these food banks stocked is to expand Thanksgiving food drives to becoming regular collections throughout the year. Institutions can hold quarterly food drives, bringing in items that would otherwise go to waste in people’s homes. On the other hand, individuals can dedicate their households to dropping off new or unused non-perishable food items to local food banks weekly or bi-weekly.
Food banks are almost always looking for volunteer help, and taking part in this activity can help the public learn more about what these operations look like behind-the-scenes in order to better contribute. Those with the financial means can even look towards organizations through Food Banks Canada and different children’s aid societies in order to sponsor families or events.
See our infographic below to learn more about the hard numbers associated with food insecurity in Canada. If you or anyone you know are in need of food bank assistance, or are looking to get involved with volunteering, you can find a food bank near you here.