Edmonton food banks under strain as Alberta increase leaps past national average
Executive director "very worried" about the coming months as local usage hits record high.
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The number of people relying on food banks is up across much of Canada, but the national increases are dwarfed by what food programs are seeing in Alberta.
According to the national Hunger Counts statistics released by Food Banks Canada Tuesday, the 1.3 per cent national increase is overshadowed by a 23 per cent increase in Alberta between 2014 to 2015.
Edmonton Food Bank Executive Director Marjorie Bencz said it’s the worst increase she’s seen and the food bank usage locally is at a “record high.”
She explained the bank’s hamper program uptake alone increased by 21.5 per cent since 2014, and by 37 per cent since 2012.
“It’s not going the way we want to see it go,” she said.
While Edmonton and Alberta have seen dramatic increases, the number of people using food banks in Saskatchewan did not increase, and numbers actually decreased in Ontario, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.
Bencz said there are a few factors creating the increase in Alberta, including an affordable housing shortage and job losses in the struggling oil industry.
“I hate to draw a stereotype because we are seeing a number of people with a number of different situations,” she said. “Unfortunately, anyone can lose a job, have a family break up, those types of things.”
She explained she’s “very worried” about the coming months.
“You need to worry about reaching capacity,” she said. “Food banks are charities… we rely on the donations (and volunteers) from the community. There is a point where you have to tread lightly about maximizing the goodwill.”
While she appreciates the generosity of Edmontonians, Bencz said governments need to address the underlying issues and drivers behind the increase to curb the trend.