Food bank use in Edmonton on the rise

Watch above: A new report shows more Canadians than ever are turning to food banks. In Alberta, usage has jumped more than 48 per cent. Vinesh Pratap reports.

EDMONTON – A new report says the number of Albertans who rely on food banks has increased more than 48 per cent since 2008.

According to its annual HungerCount report, Food Banks Canada says 49,766 Albertans were helped by food banks in March of this year – that’s a 2.3 per cent increase over last year and a 48.2 increase since 2008.

However, it appears Edmonton’s statistics are even higher.

“Our hamper programs are up over five per cent right now from last year,” said Tamisan Bencz-Knight, a spokesperson with the Edmonton Food Bank. “Our meals and snack programs are up over 12 per cent.”

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Bencz-Knight says the food bank serves more than 14,000 Edmontonians per month through its hamper program – up from about 9,000 people in 2008.

“We are seeing a large volume,” she said. “The need is always there.”

Food bank use in Canada.
Food bank use in Canada. Global News

John Kolkman with the Edmonton Social Planning Council says he isn’t surprised by the statistics.

“You have to put those numbers in perspective, as well. It’s just a little bit more than one per cent of our overall population,” he said, “but these folks are really struggling and genuinely can’t make ends meet.”

READ MORE: 5 common myths about food bank use in Canada

Kolkman says the high cost of living in the province plays a big role.

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“It can cost $1,000 per month for a one-bedroom apartment. If you look at the cost of food, several hundred dollars per month,” he said. “When you look at social assistance rates on the other hand … I’m not the least bit surprised that there’s this level of use and reliance on food banks.

“We need to do more to make work pay, including increasing the minimum wage. We need to look at social assistance rates, as well, which are amongst the lowest in the country.”

While the number of people using the food bank has increased over last year, so too has the number of people donating, Bencz-Knight said.

According to Food Banks Canada, 59,311 Albertans used food banks in 2010, which is the highest number recorded between 2008 and 2014.

A closer look at the Alberta statistics.
A closer look at the Alberta statistics. Credit: Food Banks Canada

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With files from Vinesh Pratap, Global News.