Food Banks Canada’s HungerCount report is out and it’s showing more Albertans are using its services.
In March alone, there were 116,396 total visits to the province’s food banks.
Compared to the last report in 2019, there are nearly 30 per cent more people seeking aid. That’s the second highest jump in the entire country, behind only Quebec.
Lethbridge Food Bank executive director Mac Nichol says the demand is even higher now.
“We have seen, since March to now, a big change even further, so you can draw the lines a little bit more exponential out of what those stats have shown,” Nichol said.
Danielle McIntyre with the Interfaith Food Bank points to the end of COVID-19 support programs as one reason for the increase.
“Our numbers were almost cut in half when those employment supports started to come out, things like CERB,” McIntyre said.
“As people have exhausted those resources, we have seen our numbers climbing since about March (or) April of this year.”
“Even the last few weeks we’ve seen a lot of calls from people that have lost that consistent funding wanting to access our services,” Nichol said.
“We’re seeing hints that our services are going to be needed a lot more than anticipated.”
And even the food banks are feeling the pinch.
Rising food prices and transportation costs have eaten away at Nichol’s budget.
“We’ve seen purchasing for us becoming less viable. Things that normally cost us a dollar are now costing us a dollar fifty on average, which is really putting a strain on our food purchases.”
While demand is already high, the two food banks are expecting it to jump even more in 2022.
“We are unsure of what’s to come, but we are preparing and hopefully going to be ready for that increase in the new year,” McIntyre said.
“We’re preparing now for the worst case scenario.”
Currently, more than 3,000 southern Albertans are supported monthly between both food banks.