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'A tight situation right now': B.C. gets D+ on Food Banks Canada's poverty report card

Peng-Sealin Penny, one of many struggling to make ends meet, visits the Mustard Seed Food Bank in Victoria, B.C. Peng-Sealin Penny, one of many struggling to make ends meet, visits the Mustard Seed Food Bank in Victoria, B.C.
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Peng-Sealin Penny is a senior on a pension and finds herself once a month coming to the Mustard Seed Food Bank in downtown Victoria for groceries.

“The paycheck doesn’t stretch quite as far as it used to,” said Penny.

As inflation has taken hold, she’s not alone.

“A lot of the general public has no idea how many people rely on this resource,” she said.

According to Food Banks Canada the numbers are growing across the country, especially in B.C.

The national charity released its poverty report card last week giving B.C. a D+ grade for the second year in a row. Among the findings were that almost half surveyed feel "worse off" than they did last year.

“It’s a tight situation right now,” said Emily Palimaka, Mustard Seed's director of food security, adding that year-over-year, its client base has grown by roughly 30 per cent.

“These are folks who do have homes, who have a fairly reliable source of income – but the cost of living has just become almost unbearable,” said Palimaka.

The report card shows BC’s food insecurity rate is sitting at nearly 22 per cent, which was enough to earn the province a failing grade. In addition, the province's poverty rate is sitting at 11.6 per cent while he national average is 9.9 per cent.

“Right now we’re serving anywhere from 1,400 to 1,500 meals a day,” said Grant McKenzie, with Our Place Society, another organization that helps people struggling in B.C.'s capital region.

He says every week a few new faces arrive for those meals and that it's "simply because their budget doesn’t stretch to rent plus meals,” said McKenzie.

Shelter costs in B.C, already one of the most expensive housing markets in Canada continued to increase above the national average last year at 6.4-per cent. That’s compared six per cent nationally. Rents in B.C. increased by 8.6-per cent compared to the national average of 7.7 per cent.

There is one encouraging sign, according to the report card. B.C. was given a B grade for its legislative process around its attempts to correct the housing crisis.

But those on the front lines in Victoria are finding it difficult to be optimistic.

“It feels as though inflation is almost uncontrollable and that is what we’re hearing from our clients and our community members,” said Palimaka.

When asked if things seemed to be improving, she said her realistic answer was "absolutely not."

Penny agreed.

“I’ve seen it over the years get worse, not better,” she said, adding she can’t imagine being able to make ends meet without the monthly visit to the food bank.

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