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Demand at food banks hits an all-time high across Canada

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Vaughan Good is one of millions of Canadians relying on food banks. Wednesday was the first time in years he's had to do so, but soaring food prices forced him to Victoria’s Mustard Seed food bank.

“The cost of groceries, honestly has pushed me to just try and get some eggs and some milk and some peanut butter, and not spend 50 bucks,” he said.

A report released Wednesday by Food Banks Canada shows demand at food banks across the country is at record levels. Nearly two million Canadians used them in the month of March alone.

“We’re seeing that sharp increase in need every day, and this report just supports what we’re seeing anecdotally, daily,” said Treska Watson, who runs the Mustard Seed.

Accordong to the report, demand at food banks across the country has gone up by 32 per cent this March compared to March 2022, and by an astounding 78 per cent in the past four years.

The record demand is attributed to inflation, housing costs, low wages and insufficient work hours.

Dave McKnight is a retired government worker with the motor vehicle branch. He said food inflation especially has driven him to the food bank for bread a couple times a month.

“Things are pretty tight, I’ve been at the place I’m at for seven years, so my rent is somewhat reasonable,” said McKnight outside the Mustard Seed on Wednesday, a loaf of bread under his arm.

Notably, reliance on food banks by those with a job has increased to 17 per cent this past year, and children make up one third of clients.

The BC Greens want to see the province provide grants to universities—where food banks have seen a steep rise in demand—and also to provide free meals at public schools for all kids.

“What they’ve done now is they’ve invested some money in that but you have to sign up for it, so that creates stigma and a barrier to accessing that food program,” said Green Party leader, Sonia Fursteneau.

The government has provided funds to school districts across B.C. and says it favours the approach of allowing those districts to allocate the funds to specific schools, based on need—a need that for children, and people of all ages, has never been greater.  

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