Could you choose between paying rent and buying food? This is the impossible decision many of the 123,000 people in the Alberta Capital Region who are living in poverty, and the thousands still on the margins, have to make for themselves and their families.
May 6th to 10th marks Hunger Awareness Week – a week dedicated to educating people on the real challenges households in Canada face when it comes to food security and gaining access to quality food.
Between 2008 and 2011, the number of Albertans using a food bank dramatically rose from 33,580 to 58,735. And nearly 40% of Edmonton area food bank clients are children under 18.
What causes someone to be food insecure?
There are many barriers; the most compromising is the rising cost of housing. The average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in metro Edmonton increased by 5.5% from $1,015 in October 2009 to $1,071 in October 2012. Add that to the cost of water, heat and electricity which has also increased by 7.3% between March 2010 and March 2013. In fact, utility costs are now 77.4% higher than they were in 2002.
Another factor that limits access to quality food is having a lower income. Did you know more than 27% of food bank clients report employment income? In Alberta, the minimum wage is $9.75 per hour. However, it takes $12 per hour to maintain the essentials of living. As the cost of living increases, the gap between minimum wage and a living wage will widen.
Transportation is also a major factor when it comes to food security. People, who live too far from quality food, may have to pay higher prices or travel long distances to acquire healthy food. The cost of an adult monthly bus pass in the City of Edmonton increased by 28% from $75.25 in January 2010 to $89.00 today. The cost of an individual fare increased by 20% from $2.50 to $3.20 in the same time frame.
Give it up for hunger.
You are aware of the issue, but what can you do? Food Banks across Canada are asking Canadians to make a positive impact on the issue of hunger, by giving up a meal this week to better understand what it’s like to have food out of reach. You can also donate food, funds, or time to your local food bank.
For more information on the campaign, please visit www.hungerawarenessweek.ca
For more information on hunger in Canada, check out the Hunger Count Report 2012