A recent report issued by Food Banks Canada reveals an alarming increase in the number of Canadians relying on food banks; their latest report shows that in March 2014, nearly 850,000 Canadians used a food bank, which is a 25% increase from 2008. More disturbingly, 37% of these users are children. The report also states that food bank use increased by 1% from the same period last year. In the Pontiac the numbers are even more startling.
“We have experienced a considerable increase in clientele since the downfall of the forest industry,” said Ellen Boucher, Bouffe Pontiac Director. In 2008-2009, food was distributed by Bouffe Pontiac 2,632 times compared to 8,464 times in 2013-2014; food distribution increased by approximately 8% this year from 2012-2013 when food was distributed 7,841 times.
“The winter months, most notably December, are often the busiest,” said Boucher, who noted that Bouffe Pontiac spends between $70,000-$80,000 per year to purchase food to give to individuals and families in need; this is in addition to food that is donated to the organization or from Moisson Outaouais, the regional food bank. The organization operates on government funding and fundraising.
At Christmas, which tends to be the hardest time of the year for many, Bouffe Pontiac distributes Christmas baskets to needy Pontiac families. “If people want to sign up for a Christmas basket, they must call Bouffe Pontiac at (819) 648-2550 to make
an appointment before December 8. If they are not an existing client, they’ll have to provide proof of address, proof of income, and health cards,”
The Food Banks report concludes with five suggestions for ways to decrease food bank use: invest in affordable housing at the federal level; address the extremely high levels of food insecurity in Canada’s North; replace the stigmatizing and ineffective social assistance bureaucracy at the provincial level with a basic income administered through the tax system; provide more effective
support to low-income families with children by replacing the current federal child benefits (CCTB, UCCB, etc.) with a strengthened Child Well-Being Benefit; and help Canadians with low levels of literacy to upgrade their skills for the jobs of today.