Canada’s facing the perfect storm of a food crisis in coming months
The role of the community food bank has grown and evolved to become a permanent fixture in today’s society. This year these numbers are going to skyrocket.
One of the most vulnerable topics of discussion of late centres around the subject of food – where it comes from, how it’s delivered, how it’s prepared, who gets to it – and who doesn’t. Food, in general, is increasingly being scrutinized and is under the proverbial spotlight every day.
And the sight isn’t pretty.
Between rising grocery costs, food waste, and food insecurity that is hitting society at an alarming rate, it’s hard to get a grasp on what exactly is going on in the sustenance department.
Recent stats reveal that global food costs jumped last month and, according to Bloomberg News , marching towards record numbers: A decade-high on food costs was reached in October, and the pandemic has added to the strain.
The good news is these higher food prices are just temporary as the economy starts to recover after months of COVID-19 crisis but try telling that to those who are struggling to pay grocery bills or relying on food banks to put meals on the table.
A recent report from Food Banks Canada is warning of some dire times still to come thanks to a volatile combination of “high housing costs, pandemic job losses, rising food costs and an anticipated further pull-back on government supports,” noted a recent release, stating this is creating a “perfect storm” that has Canada’s food banks bracing for a massive wave of new clients in the months to come.
When food banks were first introduced to the public in the 1980s, the idea was to provide much-needed but short-term relief during recessionary times. Yet the role of the community food bank has grown and evolved to become a permanent fixture in today’s society. This year these numbers are going to skyrocket.
Food Banks Canada are bracing for this national increase – considered the largest increase the organization has recorded since the 2008 recession, especially as Statistics Canada is reporting that food insecurity (the inability to access sufficient quantity or variety of food due to financial issues) is affecting 20% of Canadian families right now.
The organization’s newly released HungerCount 2021 Report – a detailed survey of Canada’s 4750-plus food banks and community organizations – provides the first comprehensive look at food bank usage before and after the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada. The report identifies what is now happening as a “perfect storm” of “rising housing and food costs, combined with pandemic job losses and a social safety net that’s in need of modernization,” notes a recent media release. Everyone is bracing for the worst.
“We have a pivotal choice to make, to return to a ‘pre-pandemic’ cycle of poverty or to build a better Canada where no one goes hungry and poverty is addressed at its root causes,” said David Armour, interim CEO of Food Banks Canada, in a recent media release. “Early in the pandemic, government housing and income supports helped flatten demand at Canada’s food banks, but in recent months, visits are beginning to surge, with nearly one-in-seven food banks experiencing doubling in demand – and food bank visits soaring in Quebec, Alberta and Ontario,” he added.
What to do? We can start by looking at food waste for starters. Canada is notorious for throwing out tonnes of food each year. According to the UNEP website, the numbers are staggering, with an estimated third of all food produced – about 1.3 billion tonnes – wasted or lost each year. About 14% of food globally and as much as 40% in some markets spoils before it even reaches retailers as a result of supply chain problems. Ontario’s Second Harvest reports that over half of all food made in Canada ends up being wasted and pored into landfills.