More Saskatchewan families are using food banks, according to a new report by Food Bank Canada.
The report, Hunger Count, says 863,492 Canadians turned to food banks in March this year. It’s an increase of 1.3 per cent compared to March, last year.
Saskatchewan ranks third in spikes across the provinces, with 17.5 per cent more people turning to the Food Bank this year.
The highest is Nova Scotia, 20.9 per cent, followed by Alberta at 17.6 per cent.
Regina Food Bank CEO Steve Compton said the numbers paint a troubling picture.
“It’s the biggest increase in quite some time… What we’re seeing is a significant amount of people reaching for support,” he said.
“There’s a lot of single parent families. There’s a lot of families where the cost of raising a family has become unmanageable versus the income that’s coming into the household.”
“We’re hoping that in a sense we’ve seen the worst of it.”
In Saskatchewan, food banks helped feed 31,395 people this past March. Of that group, about 45 per cent were children and youth. It’s the highest rate across Canada.
“You wouldn’t necessarily see them at the Food Bank because it’s the head of the household, the caregivers that are here,” Compton said.
“It affects their ability to be hungry when they’re at school, their ability to learn, their ability to fully participate in their community.”
Compton said the spike can be attributed to a variety of factors like a sluggish economy, or the rise in cost of living.
“The economy affects all of us, so your ability or my ability to help to donate to a charity like the food bank might be different this year,” Compton said.
Social Services Minister Tina Beaudry-Mellor said addressing the issue, and why is a top priority for the province.
“I think we are looking a lot at the family and child welfare file. We have a new Children’s advocate who I hope to be working very closely with… Children using food banks is always a concern,” she said.
Over the past few months, the Regina Food Bank saw on average 500 more people a month.
“Just to be at the window every day, it does seem like it’s gotten quite a bit busier than when I was first here,” employee Jamie Nielsen said.
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