Starve COVID, Feed Food Banks

Food Banks provide an essential service in Canada and around the world, perhaps now more than ever. Vulnerable persons, children and older persons disproportionately rely on food hampers for survival. 

Food Bank Usage
Source: Hungercount 2019

This past Friday, our federal government announced funding of $100M for food banks in Canada. This seems like a lot but spread across Canada’s 700 food banks, it isn’t. Take Calgary for example: in 2019 Calgary Food Banks received $9.3M in funds and $32.4M in food value. At a 50% decrease in donations, Calgary Food Banks would be short approx. 20 million to meet last year’s level of demand. IF all food donations stopped, the funds needed would increase by a factor of 348% ($295M!) to maintain the same level of service. I know this is a worst-case scenario. Even at half this, it’s more than the announced funding for the entire country.

“COVID-19 is hitting supply chains hard everywhere but nowhere harder than at food banks.” (Source) Why is this? In large part, because they rely on donated food and labour. Food is costing everyone more these days and with a sharp drop in donations combines to create a situation where food banks will need to purchase more of the items they provide.

And what of the increase in demand? We can’t say for sure exactly how big the increase will be during the pandemic, but we can look at what is happening with EI applications to make an estimation of the scope. Applications for EI, using March 2020 and 2019 information, have risen by 359%. If you’ve followed the math this far, perhaps you could follow one more step? That’s a possible increase of 707% for Calgary Food Banks in 2020, which adds up to $295M just for ONE food bank. A 700% rise in demand at 700 food banks? Egad!

Canadian seniors are the bread and butter (as I wince at my own food pun!) of the food bank game. I don’t know about your community, but my local food bank is run by local seniors. We can’t expect these or any other food bank volunteers to risk infection to provide this essential service. 

Recruiting new volunteers at this time is challenging, to say the least. With fewer volunteers and fewer donations, our food banks are going to need to hire paid staff AND purchase more food items. Our national network of food banks needs all the help it can get.

If you want to see who else is donating to food banks, check social media. As one example, the cast of Schitt’s Creek has a GoFundMe. Go check it out and donate if you can.

Peace & Progress

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