Food or Rent: Too Many Canadians Face Difficult Choices Every Day

Food Banks Canada asking Canadians and Government to take action on Hunger Awareness Day (June 1)

TORONTO, May 31 /CNW/ - Despite an improving economy, the number of individuals turning to food banks for support remains high. On Hunger Awareness Day (June 1), Food Banks Canada is calling on Canadians to think about hunger in Canada and donate funds, food or volunteer time to a local food bank to help those in need.

Too many Canadians face difficult choices as they struggle to provide for themselves and their families: the senior on a fixed income who has to scrimp on food in order to pay for medication; the working father who can't buy fresh produce because he must pay for child care; the young man on a disability-related income support who skips lunch every day so he can afford a decent apartment. Close to 800,000 people every month face these choices and find themselves turning to a food bank to make ends meet(1).

A real-life example is Theresa Schrader, a mother with a young son in Toronto, who lives on social assistance benefits of $562 a month. Her basic expenses of rent, utilities and other expenses are $371 leaving her with only $191 monthly to pay for food for herself and her child. Theresa, who is currently working towards a degree in Social Work, doesn't know how she is going to make it through the summer on her limited income. "I'm not afraid to say that I'm struggling to put food on the table for myself and my son," says Ms. Schrader. "I am grateful for the support that food banks provide to me while I continue to try to break the cycle of poverty."

Theresa's situation is very common. There are families, students, working Canadians, individuals on fixed incomes facing similar challenges. For example, a senior in Montreal living on maximum Old Age Security benefits of $1,169(2) a month will struggle to cover basic living costs:

    
    - Monthly rent, one bedroom apartment: $604(3),

    - Utilities such as hydro, heat and telephone: $75 - $150;

    - Transportation: $70(4).
    

With approximately $350 remaining to cover other essential expenses including clothing and health care cost like medication, there is very little to pay for food. And according to Health Canada's Nutritious Food Basket, an individual requires $309 per month in order to meet proper nutritional needs. Visiting a food bank may become a necessity for this individual.

"It is unacceptable that Canadians cannot afford basic, nutritious food for themselves and their families", says Katharine Schmidt, Executive Director, Food Banks Canada. "On June 1, we are looking to individuals, the business community and government to take action to help reduce hunger in Canada."

Food Banks Canada will be in downtown Toronto on Hunger Awareness Day, June 1st, sharing Canadians' solutions to hunger through an art exhibit at Nathan Phillips Square. The public is encouraged to participate by submitting their response to the question, "What would you do to end hunger in Canada?" at www.hungerawarenessday.ca.

Hunger Awareness Day would not be possible without the support of some of Canada's leading corporate citizens. Food Banks Canada would like to thank this year's Corporate Hunger Heroes who are vital to raising awareness for the cause and are executing a number of events across the country. These Heroes include, Campbell Company of Canada, Canon Canada Inc., GlaxoSmithKline Foundation Inc., Great West Life, Investors Group Inc., Kellogg Canada Inc., Kraft Canada Inc., McCain Foods (Canada), NBC Universal, Pepsi QTG, Purolator Courier Ltd., Sodexo and Sony of Canada. We would also like to thank our Hunger Supporters: Clarks Clarks Companies North America, Radical Foundation, and XTL Transport Inc.

About Hunger Awareness Day

Hunger Awareness Day was created to provide food banks with an opportunity to educate about the reality of hunger in Canada and to encourage all Canadians to make a choice to help those in need. Although the first food bank was opened in 1981 as a temporary emergency measure, food banks have become an unfortunate part of the social safety net. Today, 884 food banks and 2,906 affiliated agencies distribute groceries or provide meals for hungry Canadians.

About Food Banks Canada

Food Banks Canada is the national charitable organization representing the food bank community across Canada. Our members and their respective agencies serve approximately 85 per cent of people accessing emergency food programs nationwide. Our mission is to meet the short term need for food and find long-term solutions to reduce hunger. Visit www.foodbankscanada.ca for more information.

    
    (1) Source: HungerCount2009, Food Banks Canada. For the complete 2009
        HungerCount report please go to:
        http://foodbankscanada.ca/documents/HungerCount2009NOV16.pdf
    (2) Source: Maximum Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement
    (3) Source: Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (2009). Rental
        market statistics, Fall 2009. Ottawa: CMHC.
    (4) Source: All transportation and food costs calculated using
        information from Human Resources and Social Development Canada
        (2009). Low income in Canada: 2000-2007 using the Market Basket
        Measure - August 2009. Ottawa: Government of Canada.
    

SOURCE Food Banks Canada

For further information: For further information: Media Contact: Marzena Gersho, Food Banks Canada, (647) 242-5919, (416) 203-9241 X 28


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