The sad reality is that far too many children in our own communities are hungry. Food Banks Canada is reporting a concern of enormous proportions: food bank use remains higher than it was before the recession
began five years ago. During a time of apparent economic recovery, far too many Canadians still struggle to put food on the table.Bombarding them and their children with messages of the Fabulous 15 is cruel when what they need is a hot, nourishing meal. In 2008, it appeared that progress was being made, as the number of people helped by food banks each month reached its lowest point in 10 years. Unfortunately, the recession hit Canada late that year, and food bank use suddenly skyrocketed
According to the Food Bank Canada:
- In 2008 Food Bank use went up by 18%, rising from 675,735 to 794,738 people per month in 2009.
- Food Bank use continued to rise until it hit a high of 872,379 last year.
- During this time, food banks and other charitable food programs have been stretched to their limits.
- HungerCount 2013 tells us that the need for food banks and other charitable food programs in Canada continues to be widespread and, in many regions, continues to grow.
- In March of this year, 833,098 people received food from a food bank in Canada.
- Of those helped, 36% were children and 77,920 were turning to a food bank for the first time.
- During the same period, 4,341,659 meals were prepared and served by soup kitchens, shelters, school breakfast initiatives, and other programs.
- Food bank use decreased slightly, by 4.5%, from 2012 to 2013. it is nevertheless 23% higher than in 2008, before the last recession began.
- The use of meal programs is 11% higher than in 2012, and 40% higher than in 2008.
- Nearly half of food banks reported an increase in use in 2013; these food banks saw a 21% rise in the number of people coming to them for help this year.
- The annual HungerCount survey results also highlight the fact that hunger, food insecurity, and poverty can happen to anyone:
- 22% of households helped by food banks are two-parent families.
- 12% of households assisted gain the majority of their income from employment; another 5% are on Employment insurance.
- 7% of individuals who receive food from a food bank live primarily on pension income (rising to nearly 10% in small towns and rural areas).
- 7% of households helped are homeowners (increasing to 15% in small towns and rural areas).
Christmas is a great time of year to teach our kids the value of money and compassion for others. Let’s explain how many meals the cost of a toy (to be soon forgotten) can buy and how as a family we can help those in need. Here are a few ways to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas with our kids:
- Visit seniors who are living alone and perhaps bring a hot meal or help with some chores around the house.
- Pack up unused toys and books and bring them to your local Children’s Hospital. Find out if any of the children have families who live far away and perhaps visit for a while or read a story.
- Cut back on the number of toys your kids will receive and instead donate a new toy any of the organizations that distribute to less fortunate children.
- Bring food to your local food bank.
- If your children are teenagers, volunteer at a soup kitchen or at the food bank.
- Seeing how others less fortunate live and the struggles that they face is a valuable learning lesson. And, perhaps this will help our kids get started on a path of volunteerism instead of consumerism.