After three open heart surgeries, Gary Franklin and his wife had to give up their jobs to stay with their son, Xavier, during his recovery.
Xavier’s since fully recovered but the ordeal landed the family on income assistance.
They’re one of hundreds of Nova Scotians relying on food banks to feed their families.
“When Xavier was in the hospital going through surgeries we both had to stay off work to actually spend a lot of time in the IWK with him,” Gary Franklin said, Xavier’s father.
A new national report, called Hunger Count 2016, puts Nova Scotia’s food bank use ahead of any other province.
The annual report takes a snapshot of food bank use for the month of March and compares it to the previous year.
From March 2015 to March 2016 there’s been a 21 per cent increase in Nova Scotians using food banks.
“One in 21 Nova Scotian’s are relying on help from a food bank, that’s 44,000 total,” said Nick Jennery, Feed Nova Scotia’s director.
Jennery says it’s a crisis that can’t be fixed with increased donations.
“We need a change in poverty strategy to start solving this problem, government and businesses need to come together. If you look at this report, 56 per cent of the households using food banks are on income assistance,” he said.
October 2016 statistics from the Department of Community Services say there’s 14,666 people in the Halifax Regional Municipality on Employment Support and Income Assistance.
Of those cases, 10,494 represent adults and 4,172 of them represent children.
Recipients and families of ESIA received $777 for the month of October.
Franklin says any help is appreciated during times of struggle but the assistance isn’t enough to keep up with monthly expenses, especially food costs.
“Any help is really appreciated because right now we’re going through such a hard time but what we get for a family of five isn’t enough to get by,” he said.
Minister of Community Services, Joanne Bernard, says the report calls for more work to be done to find solutions to tackle poverty in the province.
“It’s about collectively working together as governments, in partnership with non-profits and the general population as a whole to really try to affect the cycle of poverty that clearly we have here in Nova Scotia,” she said.
It’s a cycle that families like Gary’s are desperately trying to break away from.
WATCH: Food bank demand spiking across Canada