Food Banks and Food Insecurity in Canada

November 26, 2021 | Tom Tavani

Food Banks and Food Insecurity in Canada

The recent release of Food Banks Canada’s Hunger Report 2021 should be a wake-up call for everyone in this country.

Using data collected from food banks and programs right across the nation, the organization compiles and reports on the trends that are occurring in our population. The numbers are startling – especially for a first-world country like Canada.

They found that there were about 1.3 million visits to food banks, with a full one-third of the visitors being children. About half of those who use food banks are on disability insurance or other kinds of social assistance. Worst of all, there was a 20 per cent increase over their 2019 report.

There’s no doubt that urban areas were especially hard hit by unemployment and other economic impacts brought on by the pandemic. Racialized and Indigenous populations and those living on fixed incomes were disproportionately affected.

But rural Canada was not exempt. Almost a third of those people who used food banks depended on either pensions or disability payments as their main source of income.

It’s not all doom and gloom. Food Banks Canada put forward five policy recommendations for alleviating the suffering, including increasing supports for low-income adults and renters. Many food banks do more than distribute food, providing much-needed training, education and help finding employment services.

Our farming community also helps out where it can. For example, the Chicken Farmers of Ontario donated 1.4 million meals in 2021. Since 2015, the Egg Farmers of Ontario have donated 144,000 dozen eggs annually to food banks across the province.

Farmers donate surplus produce under the Daily Bread Food Bank’s Farm to Food Bank program. Residents in the GTA now have access to 25 different kinds of fruits and vegetables – either delivered fresh or turned into soups, casseroles and other meals in the organization’s kitchen.

There are many farmers, rural and city people with kind hearts who donate their time, energy, money and food at the food banks. But we need more structural changes to the way our society works.

In a province and country as rich as Ontario and Canada, we need to pull together to make sure no one gets left behind. 

Tom Tavani is General Manager for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKXS Chatham, CKNX Wingham, and CHLP Listowel.