Union Gospel Mission says families using food banks on the rise

As the use of food banks increases across Canada, the Union Gospel Mission says the increase in needed assistance is particularly noticeable among families.

“About a year ago we maybe would have seen a handful of families coming to us every day for dinner. Now in some cases we’ll see upwards of 40 people, several different families, coming to us every single day just for basic meals,” says Jeremy Hunka, spokesperson for Vancouver’s Union Gospel Mission.

“We also have emergency hampers that we give out to families when they don’t have food, when they need to prepare it for themselves, and that too have doubled in the past year.”

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One of those families is Kelly Spence and his 9-year-old daughter Shanika. As the single unemployed dad cares for his daughter and continues his studies to become an office administrator, he makes ends meet with the help of food banks and the Union Gospel Mission.

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“I’m just trying to move forward. As a single parent, single father, it’s a struggle sometimes. But I’m never giving up,” says Spence.

“It’s full all the time, families and lots of people go there to eat….They’ve been a very, very big help for us, especially during the holidays.”

According to Food Banks Canada, 852,137 Canadians visited a food bank in March 2015 – 1.3 per cent higher than March 2014.

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Canada’s food bank use remains 26 per cent higher than in 2008, and Food Banks executive director Canada Katharine Schmidt is calling for investments in job training, affordable housing, even a minimum income program to decrease Canadians’ reliance on food banks.

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“It’s something that we hope will continue to be discussed because we believe that at the end of the day, the cost of poverty is so high that if we took an approach of having a minimum income, it would cost less than the cost of poverty to be able to do that,” she said.

– With files from Leslie Young

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