February 28, 2019 1:00 am
Updated: March 1, 2019 11:52 am

5 myths about food insecurity debunked

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Food insecurity has many faces: A single mother of two who cannot afford proper childcare let alone a nutritious meal. Immigrant parents who need new training so they can land good jobs and provide for a family of six. A middle-aged person recently out of work and injured, who only has enough money to pay mortgage and heating bills.

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These composite characters sketched by Food Banks Canada represent different facets of the lives of the hundreds of thousands Canadians who visit food banks every month. In March 2018, Canadians visited Food Banks Canada locations across the country more than 1 million times.

Year over year, that number has steadily increased. And as demand increases at food banks, so should community support. That’s why businesses, volunteers and local groups across the country work on a daily basis to secure meals for hungry Canadians. Together, millions of meals and snacks are served every month with the help of generous donations.

Still, the food insecurity problem goes largely unnoticed in most communities and because of this a number of myths are perpetuated. Here are some of the biggest misconceptions surrounding food insecurity, presented in partnership with Walmart Canada.

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Myth: Only unemployed people are food insecure

“Being in the workforce is not enough to protect [someone] from food insecurity,” according to a policy research group called PROOF. Income varies among the food insecure and precarious work can make it difficult to afford meals.

To that end, some 59 per cent of households using food banks in 2018 listed “social assistance or disability-related supports” as their main source of income, according to Food Banks Canada’s HungerCount 2018 report.

Myth: Food insecurity only effects seniors

While senior citizens are among the population of food insecure Canadians, more than 50 per cent of people who rely on food banks are under the age of 30.

In fact, children make up a large subsection of food bank visitors in every province. “Children are over-represented in food bank use compared to the overall population,” Food Banks Canada notes. “Single-parent households are also over-represented in food bank use compared to their share of the population.”

Myth: They are bad at cooking

People who are food insecure actually are just as skilled at cooking as those in secure households, according to PROOF.

In fact, a very small number of Canadian adults have actually reported that they don’t know where to begin in the kitchen.

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Myth: They budget poorly

It’s unrealistic to expect a household to budget its way out of hunger. According to PROOF research, more Canadians in insecure households shop with a planned budget than Canadians in food secure households.

The assumption that Canadians who use food banks exhibit vastly different behaviour than the rest of the country is false. Whether food insecure or not, behaviour is similar in areas like planning meals and writing a grocery list, according to PROOF.

Myth: There’s nothing I can do to help

The fight against hunger needs community support and there are many ways Canadians can join the cause.

Small businesses and major corporations are involved with initiatives every year and consumers are integral to these programs’ success.  Walmart’s “Fight Hunger Spark Change” campaign is an example of that.

You can help by purchasing participating products online or in stores. You can round your purchase up to the nearest dollar at the register and Walmart Canada will match your donation up to $820,000. You can add $1, $2 or $5 to your online shopping cart, or even drop off non-perishable food donations in store.

Walmart Canada’s “Fight Hunger Spark Change” campaign aims to provide 13 million meals to Canadians in partnership with Food Banks Canada. Since 2011, Walmart has raised and donated more than $10 million and 11 million pounds of food. Join the fight against hunger at walmart.ca.

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