Alright, I’ve been away on vacation and negligent in updating, which a few posts in probably says a lot about my level of focus and commitment. None-the-less, let’s get back at it.
Food Bank Canada just released a report showing more Canadians are using food banks this year than last year. Given Canada has reportedly come through the economic crisis ‘relatively unscathed’ and GDP grew by 2% in 2013, shouldn’t we be seeing levels of food bank use returning to pre-economic recession levels? Well, no. Probably not, because most of that money isn’t going towards social supports or even job creation. It’s going into corporate bank accounts. Coincidentally, the same month Food Bank Canada did this study, Stats Canada reported that $626 billion was being hoarded in corporate accounts for a 6% increase over the previous quarter and amounting to over 30% of the GDP. Huh, no wonder we aren’t seeing many signs of improved outcomes for the average Canadian even 5 years after the recession supposedly ended.
So where else is the money going? Seriously, who is benefiting from the bounce back in the economy? Turns out the top 1% of earners have seen 37% of total income growth according to the OECD and the top 10% are eating over 60% of growth. Ah, yes, this seems like a fairly proportioned distribution of wealth. The other 90% of the population have incomes which are remaining largely the same. No wonder food bank use isn’t going down. (Seriously, 170,000 more people are still using food banks than before the recession.)
So, who specifically is relying on food banks at this point in time? Well, out of 840,000 users, over half were households with children. (1/3 of users being the children themselves.) For all the government rhetoric heralding our strong economic bounce-back, we still cannot provide for our most vulnerable citizens. In fact, Canada rates behind 23 of our fellow wealthy nations for child poverty. Countries ranging from Iceland, to Slovakia, to Ireland, to Estonia are all outperforming us when it comes to keeping our kids fed and clothed. In the immortal words of Helen LoveJoy: “Won’t somebody PLEASE think of the children?”
Pointing to the systemic causes of hunger in our country, the report shows 14% of food bank users are First Nations, Metis or Inuit while another 12% are immigrants and refugees. That’s over a quarter of food bank users who are visible minorities. Scarier still, 12% of users are employed highlighting the changing workforce which focuses on part-time, temporary and low paying jobs which generally have little job security and no benefits.
Come on Canada, if we have ‘recovered’ from the recession, we can do better than this. Reliable access to food is a basic human right and shouldn’t be difficult for anyone to achieve, especially in a supposedly prosperous nation.