History Making Use of Food Banks in Alberta
According to the national Food Banks Canada HungerCount during the month of March 2016, 79,293 Albertans accessed a food bank. This is the largest number of people to visit food banks in the province’s 35-year history of food banking. During March 2016, Edmonton’s Food Bank provided a food hamper to 20,431 Edmontonians. That is an alarming 31% increase in need (March 2014 – 13,222; March 2015 – 15,344; and March 2016 – 20,431 people.)
HungerCount spoke specifically about the challenges faced by the Edmonton community and Edmonton’s Food Bank:
“In the wake of the plunging global price of oil, Edmonton’s unemployment rate grew from 4.9% in March 2014, to 5.4% in March 2015, and to 6.9% in March 2016. Incredibly, it grew almost a full percentage point between March and July of this year alone – a growth of 6,000 people in the course of four months. In July, there were 63,000 unemployed persons in Edmonton alone – the highest in ten years.
Edmonton is not alone – 80% of Alberta food banks saw an increase in use this year, and Edmonton’s unemployment rate than that of Alberta as a whole. What sets Edmonton apart is the thousands of people who flocked to the city in May to escape the fires farther north. In all likelihood, this has sent food bank use soaring even higher than the numbers recorded in March, and the city’s social service system has been overwhelmed.
In 2016, Edmonton and the surrounding region is a microcosm of some of the main drivers of food bank use:
(1) long-term inadequacy of government benefits for jobless Canadians
(2) high unemployment caused by medium-term economic upheaval
(3) short-term crisis and dislocation, in this case caused by wildfires
While food bank use is often a product of one or two of these factors, they rarely come together so disastrously all at once.
HungerCount is released annually by Food Banks Canada to keep Canadians informed about the issue of hunger and to generate conversations on possible solutions. HungerCount highlights the national and provincial trends by looking at food bank use annually in the month of March.
To see the full HungerCount click here