Did you know that close to 850,000 Canadians turn to a food bank each month? And… I bet you didn’t know more than 14,000 people access the Edmonton Food Bank every month.
May 5th to 9th is Hunger Awareness Week! This year’s campaign theme is “Give Hunger a Voice.” As Food Banks Canada challenges Canadians to break the silence surrounding hunger in Canada, United Way encourages you to look at the growing issue of food insecurity in Edmonton.
According to the most recent 2011 Canadian Community Health Survey, 12.3% or 172,300 Alberta households experience food insecurity (Vital Signs Report, 2013). Research shows that food insecurity is directly linked with income and household food expenditures. In 2012, over one in five employed persons in Edmonton (21%) earned $15.00/hour or less (Vital Signs Report, 2013).
The cost of food has increased dramatically in the last 10 years. In 2003, the cost of a nutritious food basket for a family of four was $133 per week compared to the current cost of $210 per week. The negative impact of both, inadequate household income and the increasing cost of living, affects many families and especially children, who do not have enough to meet their basic food intake. The fact is food insecure households cannot afford healthy and nutritious foods.
The lack of adequate food can have harmful effects on the physical, social, emotional and cognitive development of an individual. Malnutrition, mental illness, stress and chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and obesity create a loss in productivity, increase the cost on our health care system and affects tax revenue.
Studies show malnutrition during a child’s early years (0-6 years) has long-term effects on a child’s physiological and psychological development. As a result, children in food insecure households are more likely to experience a whole range of behavioral, emotional, and academic problems.
Food insecurity can happen to anyone, however, families living in poverty face ongoing challenges. To get an idea of child poverty in Edmonton, we know that forty per cent of Edmonton’s Food Bank clients are children. Hunger in schools is also a common issue with over 2,200 elementary school students in Edmonton accessing the E4C School Lunch program every day.
What can you do? You can volunteer at the local food bank, donate food and funds, approach local representatives, join local Hunger Awareness Week activities and events, and spread the word at various milieus (work place, faith groups, schools, etc). For more information on hunger in Canada, check out the Hunger Count Report 2013 at Food Banks Canada