Combating Food Insecurity in Canada with Food Banks Canada
Did you know that 4 million Canadians live with food insecurity and struggle to put food on the table? Food insecurity has been a persistent problem in Canada for a very long time, but as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for community food banks and assistance programs reached record high levels for those in need of support.
1 in 8 Canadians Accessed Community Support Programs for Food
To grasp the size of the population and better understand who is struggling with food insecurity, a national study was conducted by Navigator’s research firm, Discover, on behalf of Food Banks Canada. The results were alarming. After a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, 13% of respondents reported that they or someone in their household reached out to a community organization to access free food or meals within the past year – the majority needing to do so more than once.
As researchers drilled down further into the data, a clearer picture emerged of the groups of people who had been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. While not mutually exclusive – and often overlapping – people with lower incomes, indigenous and racialized communities, and younger adults were the demographics who felt the greatest financial impact from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Low-Income Households and Workers
Households and individuals with annual incomes below $35,000 were much more likely to experience food insecurity during the pandemic. Many individuals in the low-income brackets were also working in minimum wage jobs in industries that were heavily impacted by shutdowns (for example, foodservice and tourism industries). This resulted in these households experiencing a significant loss of wages and relying on community organizations, such as food banks, for access to free food.
Indigenous and Racialized Communities
While indigenous and racialized people were already more likely to experience poverty and food insecurity, the pandemic magnified the inequalities present in our society. Respondents of this national study who identified as Indigenous or belonging to various racialized groups were reportedly more likely to access a community food program during the pandemic than people who identified as White.
Due to a disproportionate wage loss experienced by younger adults, the cohorts between 18-24 years of age were reported to have accessed free food or meals in the last year, followed by those aged 25-34. Many individuals in these age groups were also employed in industries that were hard hit by the pandemic and those that are also comprised of lower-wage jobs such as the restaurant, retail, and service sectors. As a result, many individuals working in these jobs experienced a significant decrease in hours worked and employment in general, as shutdowns rocked these industries.
What We’re Doing to Help
Food insecurity has been on our radar for quite some time, and we at the Wholesale Club and Loblaw Companies Limited are committed to helping those in need. For the past decade, Loblaw Companies Limited has been partnering with Food Banks Canada in their Retail Food Program, to help increase safe access to quality, nutritious food in Canadian communities. Recognizing that we have the ability to help, “to date, we have matched nearly 280 of our stores with food banks across Canada, helping reduce the amount of perishable food going to landfill and providing people facing food insecurity with healthy alternatives,” says Tonya Lagrasta, Senior Director, Corporate Social Responsibility at Loblaws.
In addition to this, the Wholesale Club developed an exclusive Food Banks Canada Savings Program, offering:
- A free automatic Gold Card Membership
- Exclusive discounted pricing
- Instant rebates
- Annual rebates
- Volume discounts on large orders
- Electronic gift card program
What You Can Do to Help
We know that many people have been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and many households and businesses have had to be extremely creative and resourceful just to get by. When it comes to food insecurity, though, even small donations can make a difference. Here are just a few of the ways that households and businesses can help their local food bank:
- Find your local food bank and ask them which items they need most, then donate overstock of food items you may have.
- Set up a donation box for visitors and staff to drop off non-perishable food donations.
- Organize a monthly fundraiser and/or donation drive
- Make a plan and a budget to donate a portion of your income or profits to your local food bank.
There are countless ways that we can give back to our community and support Food Banks Canada in their endeavour to help Canadians experiencing food insecurity. To find out more about food insecurity in our country, learn about Food Banks Canada, or find out how you can help, please visit the Food Banks Canada website.