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Increasing food insecurity one threat facing children: report

An adult and child walk in front of a Calgary school on Aug. 30, 2023. Global News

Children’s advocates are warning that more kids will be heading to school hungry this school year.

The Raising Canada annual report released by Children First Canada on Wednesday showed poverty and food insecurity is one of the top threats to the health and wellbeing of Canadians under 18.

Other threats include preventable injuries and illnesses, bullying, racism and discrimination, poor mental health, limited physical activity and effects of climate change.

“These are really tough topics to think about,” Children First Canada CEO and founder Sara Austin said. “As kids head back to school, it’s important that we think about the challenges that our kids are facing, but also the opportunities to make life better for kids here in our community and all across the country.”

The report highlighted was a near 29-per-cent increase in kids living without enough access to food.

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Last year, 1.8 million children under 18 were affected by food insecurity, up from 1.4 million the year before.

Statistics Canada data shows 27.2 per cent of Alberta children in 2021 face food shortages, a jump from 24.3 per cent four years prior.

Among other provinces, Alberta sits fifth in percentage of kids facing less-than-full plates and is above the national average of 24.3 per cent.

Alberta has the highest median after-tax income in the country, according to StatsCan.

Also on Wednesday, the City of Calgary said the Farm Stand Program, which brings area farm producers directly into neighbourhoods across the city, saw more community hubs this year.

“The program is a cornerstone of our commitment to enhancing Calgarians’ access to nutritious and locally sourced food options, as well as building community connections and vibrancy within Calgary’s neighbourhoods,” said sustainability consultant Kristi Peters.

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Despite a rosy reputation for quality of life, Children First Canada said the reality for children is different.

“There’s this persistent myth that Canada is a world leading country for children when in fact we’re ranked 30th overall for well-being compared to other wealthy nations and 81st on the global Child Rates Index,” Austin said. “Clearly, we have a long way to go to improve life for kids, and this is a great sense of urgency that we start now.”

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