The demand on food banks in Canada is at an all time high. That’s according to a report done by Hunger Count 2016. In it, the numbers show a 33% jump in people relying on food banks in BC over the past 8 years. Of the 103, 464 people assisted since March, more than a third were children.
“It may mean in some instances children are going to school hungry,” says Professor of UNBC School of Social Work, Glen Schmidt. “Now some schools have breakfast or school lunch programs. We know that children don’t learn well when they are going to school on an empty stomach.”
According to Prince George food banks, the number of people accessing the service in our region is on the rise. “Over the last year we have seen about a 20-25% increase in the amount of people we are serving,” says President of the St. Vincent De Paul Society, Joe Creegan, “in terms of dealing out food and hampers to local people.”
The UNBC Food Bank is seeing barer shelves lately. President of the Northern Undergraduate Student Society (NUGSS), Arctica Cunningham, says “Based off of what I have noticed, our shelves have been emptying quite quickly… we have a cupboard that is located down the hall that is entirely anonymous. We are refilling that every 3-4 days which is quite significant.”
While most charities rely on the Christmas season to replenish their supplies, UNBC is faced with a challenge. Most classes finish December 2nd. “We really aren’t receiving those Christmas food donations that most food banks rely on, ” says Cunningham. “Come January, a lot of our students are in their most vulnerable state because they have just had to pay for tuition for a whole new semester, and their student fees. Christmas is a very expensive time. A lot of them have been traveling home to see their families.”
The Hunger Count 2016 report calls on the federal government to quickly create a national poverty reduction strategy.