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N.S., N.B. see dramatic jump in food bank usage as part of national trend

Click to play video: 'Food bank usage on campus expected to rise'
Food bank usage on campus expected to rise
As students head back to university campuses, some are facing tough choices when it comes to their finances. The use of on-campus food banks in Halifax are expected to peak this semester. Zack Power reports. – Sep 5, 2023

New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have seen a dramatic jump in food bank usage, as part of a startling national trend.

Food Banks Canada, a national charitable organization, released its HungerCount 2023 study Wednesday, which found food bank usage has hit an all-time high in the country.

According to the new data, Nova Scotia had a 26.8 per cent increase in food bank visits from 2019 to 2023. For New Brunswick, the jump was 34 per cent.

“Quite frankly, I don’t know how much more years of this kind of growth food banks can handle and absorb,” Kirstin Beardsley, CEO of Food Banks Canada, told Global News.

The report found one-third of food bank clients are children, and warned the situation will only worsen unless governments take action. 

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The data was collected this March, which Food Banks Canada uses annually for its study. The month is described as an “unexceptional month without predictable high- or low-use patterns.”

In Nova Scotia, where 130 food banks reported data, 10,039 of the 32,498 visits in 2023 were from children.

New Brunswick had 65 food banks reporting data. There were 29,846 visits, of which 10,322 were from children.

A further breakdown found 35.9 per cent of Nova Scotia food bank users listed social assistance as their main source of income, while 17.9 per cent listed job income. As well, nearly half said they were single people while 17.6 per cent were single-parent families. Seven out of 10 users were renters, while 4.5 per cent said they were unhoused or in temporary shelters. Some 12 per cent were homeowners.

In New Brunswick, 43.7 per cent listed social assistance as their main source of income, while 13.8 per cent listed job income. Exactly 50 per cent were single people, while single-parent families and two-parent families represented about 17 per cent each. The majority of users — 61.5 per cent — were renters. About 15 per cent were homeowners and 5.2 per cent were unhoused.

Food banks in the region have been voicing concerns about increased usage. Last October, Food Depot Alimentaire in Moncton told Global News the past year had been a challenge.

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“We can’t stretch every dollar like we used to,” said Stephane Sirois, Food Depot Alimentaire’s executive director.

In August, Feed Nova Scotia echoed that sentiment — saying their budget was stretching thinner as the cost of living climbed.

“The need is growing, and our member food banks are feeling that pinch,” said Abby Crosby, the food bank’s communication manager.

“We’re seeing more new people than ever before.”

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick  providing $2M to organization that supplies food banks'
New Brunswick providing $2M to organization that supplies food banks

with files from Global News’  Aaron D’Andrea

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