Inflation: Childhood hunger is a major concern in Canada OCN News


Skipping the occasional meal has become the norm for Tara Andrews, who says soaring grocery prices have made it too difficult for her and her two teenage children to eat properly.

Even with the help of food donations and her retired parents, the 49-year-old single mother says the skyrocketing cost of living is more than she can handle on her £1,200 monthly income. $. She is already a month behind on May rent and expects the same for June.

“My grocery bill has almost doubled and I’m getting maybe half of what I used to be able to get. It’s a direct relationship that the more expensive things get, the less I can afford to spend. ‘buy,’” Andrews says from his home in Coquitlam, British Columbia.

It’s a familiar story for various organizations dedicated to addressing food insecurity, with the head of Food Banks Canada saying many families with children are particularly precarious as school food programs wind down.

It’s a familiar story for various organizations dedicated to addressing food insecurity, with the head of Food Banks Canada saying many families with children are particularly precarious as school food programs wind down.

Kirstin Beardsley says about a third of people who rely on Canadian food banks are children – up to 400,000 every month. The agency says food bank use is increasing among single-parent families.

“These are children who do not have the chance to flourish. And that has a long-term impact on the country,” Beardsley says.

“You can’t lose sight of the fact that children don’t have another childhood, they can’t start over. This is their only chance and you need to make sure we give everyone the opportunity they need to build the life they want.

This summer, Food Banks Canada hopes to increase the summer food baskets it offers to children to 175,000, up 25,000 from last year and well above the inaugural 700 packages in 2015.

In Toronto, the head of the Daily Bread Food Bank also says requests for help have soared as inflation hit a nearly four-decade high.

Neil Hetherington says his agency receives around 160,000 client visits per month, up from around 120,000 per month in January. He says modeling the organization has done with CIBC predicts that will increase to 200,000 customer visits per month in December.

He says his counterparts across the country tell him of similar spikes, with many reporting a 20-30% increase in demand.

While many of these visitors have been on the fringes for years, Hetherington says he is also seeing new faces who otherwise would never have turned to food charities, bringing soaring food prices, gasoline prices, housing costs and continued job uncertainty in some sectors.

“We see people working, but their paycheck doesn’t keep up with the cost of being able to drive to work or being able to feed their children. They are increasingly worried about what they see and (of) being able to put food on the table,” says Hetherington.

Back in British Columbia, Andrews says things would be much worse for her without the subsidy for her three-bedroom apartment, which brings the rent down to $540 a month.

But she says pre-existing financial problems worsened during the pandemic and only got worse in 2022, as inflation also drove up the cost of gas and utilities.

She is also struggling with $150,000 in school loans, but can only cover the interest.

“I’m luckier than others because I live in housing so it’s subsidized but you still have all the bills that go with it to run the house. Then there’s the extra food,” she says.

“I earn enough to cover my bills and really not to buy food. That’s really what it’s all about. »

Among the organizations Andrews relies on is North Vancouver-based Backpack Buddies, which provides weekend meals to children who need help feeding themselves between the end of school on Friday after -noon and the resumption on Monday morning.

The program expanded into the summer months during the pandemic and will expand even more this summer, says co-executive director Emily-anne King.

“We were kind of hoping that the onset of COVID in March 2020 and the next six months would be the peak of demand for services like ours, but now we’re seeing more demand than ever,” says King.

She says they recently added another 500 beneficiaries in communities such as Lower Similkameen, Saltspring Island and the village of Lytton, devastated by last year’s wildfire. They expect to help about 2,100 children a week this summer.

Demand is rising as the annual inflation rate rises faster than it has since 1983, with Statistics Canada reporting on Wednesday that the consumer price index in May rose 7.7% from to a year ago.

This has plenty of bracing for more interest rate hikes to control inflation. The Bank of Canada has already raised its headline target three times this year.

Statistics Canada said in May that the price of groceries rose nearly 10% from a year earlier, matching April’s jump. The cost of fresh vegetables increased by 10%, while the biggest increase ever was for edible fats and oils at 30%.

As prices continue to rise, food policy expert Valerie Tarasuk of the University of Toronto says things will only get worse for 5.8 million Canadians who are food insecure, including about 1, 4 million children.

While that pool may grow this year, she is most worried about Canadians who are already hurting and who will continue to sink unless income support programs increase in line with rising costs.

“Things are going to get worse before they get better. And I think with each of these reports, I hope our political leaders are feeling more and more pressure to rethink what they are doing at the bottom end” , says Tarasuk.

“We don’t need little one-time cheques. They won’t be enough to make all of this go away. We need policies that actually last and that means things like indexation.

The Bank of Canada has said it is ready to “act more forcefully” to rein in inflation, leading some economists to suspect rates could rise by three-quarters of a percentage point next month. which matches the US Federal Reserve’s decision last week.

For Canadians who are already overburdened, Hetherington says a 1% or 2% increase in monthly mortgage or loan payments could be significant.

“I see kids every day excited to go to the food bank and buy the food they need,” says Hetherington.

“They are thrilled to be with their parents shopping at a food bank and it breaks your heart. It is absolutely untrue that this is happening in our country.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 23, 2022.

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