Food Insecurity Plagues Millions

By Kirk Winter

            Canadian food banks need your help more now than ever before.

            Food banks are on the front line of a Canadian crisis: food insecurity. Food security has been defined in many ways, but most agree that those who have food security seldom wonder about where their next meal is coming from, or whether they can afford groceries. Those who suffer from marginal, moderate, or severe food insecurity do not have that luxury, and access to food becomes a serious cause of familial stress on a daily basis.

            One-third of all the clients served by food banks are children. Many of those children have their diets supplemented by school breakfast and lunch programs. These programs vary in quality, availability, and focus depending upon who is offering them. 

            Families who rely on those supplemental school programs find weekends and summer holidays very hard. Some school programs are now sending lunches home for Saturday and Sunday so children are guaranteed something to eat. Summer holidays are far more problematic for families dealing with food insecurity.  With summer budgets strained to the limit with additional costs like daycare, camps, and babysitters it can be a very difficult time of year to put food on the table for those in need.

            Food banks also have to deal with the unfortunate realities that both funding and donations slow in the summer months. All levels of government only provide food banks approximately 15 percent of the funding they need to provide their programs. Combine that with the fact that Canada is the only G8 or OECD nation to not have a broadly based national school meal program, and food insecurity only grows.

            The impacts of food insecurity are striking. For adults, food insecurity creates family stress and conflict where meals can become a flashpoint for conflict, rather than happy gathering opportunities. Adults dealing with food insecurity also deal with poor mental, physical, and oral health. Rates of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, depression, epilepsy and fibromyalgia are well above national averages in Canada for people suffering from food insecurity.

            Adults in food insecure households are also more likely to cost the health care system much more than Canadians fortunate enough to be food secure. A recent survey by the University of Guelph/Dalhousie University stated that adults living in a severely food insecure household cost government health care programs 76 percent more per person than those living in a food secure household.  In dollars and cents, that number translates into almost $1,100 per year per person in additional health care costs to deal with the ailments of each of those hungry Canadians. The Ontario Association of Food Banks indicate that if all of the food insecure families were included with those already utilizing food banks, the number of food bank clients could double.

            Food banks are doing more than they have ever been asked to do before. In many cases they are also keys players in school meal programs, weekend supplemental lunch programs and summer food assistance programs. 

            The Kawartha Lakes Food Source, the largest food bank in the CKL, wants you to assist them helping those who deal with food insecurity. You can donate money or food. You can host a food drive. You can champion a fundraiser with proceeds for the organization.  You can also volunteer to fill the myriad of jobs available at the Food Source. Their website lists dozens of positions that require volunteers, and your labour and intellect could assist those in need.

             You could also ask your local politicians the pointed question about what their level of government is doing to eradicate food insecurity in one of the richest and most bountiful nations on earth.  It is a discussion worth having.

Local NewsDeb Crossen