Record-breaking number of Calgarians relying on food banks

The No. 1 reason cited for food bank usage is that a full-time job isn't enough to cover the cost of food, according to survey respondents in Food Banks Canada's annual survey. (CBC - image credit)
The No. 1 reason cited for food bank usage is that a full-time job isn't enough to cover the cost of food, according to survey respondents in Food Banks Canada's annual survey. (CBC - image credit)

More Calgarians are resorting to food banks than ever before.

The numbers of people who rely on food banks are breaking records across the country, with Calgary leading the way in food insecurity, according to the annual Food Banks Canada survey released Thursday.

The demand is unprecedented, says Shawna Ogston of the Calgary Food Bank.

Usage has risen steadily throughout the pandemic, with the Calgary Food Bank now offering hampers to those in need every 10 days. Pre-2020, hampers containing a week's worth of food were offered only once every 30 days.

Ogston says many clients are finding it tough to ask for help.

CBC
CBC

"For a lot of clients, this is their first time experiencing any social service system, so there is a lot of guilt and shame before they even pick up that phone," she said.

The Hunger Count survey showed both the visits and the number of people affected in Calgary have more than doubled since 2019, as recipients struggle to feed themselves and their families. While 42 per cent of Calgary food bank clients live on their own, 37 per cent of recipients are children.

The No. 1 reason for accessing food banks, according to survey respondents, is that income from a full-time job isn't enough to live on.

Food Bank Canada
Food Bank Canada

"We attribute most of that to the discrepancy between income versus the cost of living in Alberta," said Arianna Scott, CEO of Food Banks Alberta.

The claim mirrors statistics that despite Canada's falling unemployment rate of 5.2 per cent this September, food bank visits across the country are at all time highs.

Food banks themselves are struggling to manage rising costs, and concern is growing about keeping pace with demand, says Scott.

Sustainable funding for food banks, an increase in affordable housing, and increased government benefits are among the recommendations in the national report.

The Calgary Food Bank says that anyone who needs food can call 403-253-2055 or schedule a visit online at calgaryfoodbank.com.