Difficult Economic Climate Increases Stress on Canadian Food Banks

       Food Banks Canada asking Canadians and Government to take action
              to help on National Hunger Awareness Day (June 2)

    TORONTO, June 1 /CNW/ - Food Banks Canada is reporting an approximately
20 per cent increase in the number of Canadians turning to food banks each
month and, as a result, food banks across the country are facing unprecedented
challenges providing essential food to those in need. On National Hunger
Awareness Day (June 2), Food Banks Canada is calling on Canadians to donate
funds, food or time to ensure Canadian food banks can continue to meet the
needs of Canada's hungry during this difficult economic time.
    "Each month, hundreds of thousands of Canadians are facing very difficult
choices - do they pay the rent, pay the hydro bill, or buy food," says
Katharine Schmidt, Executive Director, Food Banks Canada. "We want Canadians
to know that families and individuals in their own communities are turning to
food banks, in increasing numbers."
    This approximately 20 per cent increase is based on initial survey
results on food bank usage in March of this year compared to March 2008. Some
regions across the country are seeing an even greater demand. In Penticton,
British Columbia, the food bank has experienced a 37 per cent increase in food
bank usage since last year, with much of the increase attributed to recent
layoffs. In North Bay, Ontario, the local food bank is in a similar situation,
in part because of job losses in the mining sector. Further details on
national food bank usage will be released by Food Banks Canada once all
research is completed.
    In 2008, more than 700,000 Canadians, including students, seniors, people
with disabilities, and adults with jobs who don't make enough to support their
families - turned to food banks in an average month.(*) Now, more than ever,
communities across the country are in need of assistance, and both individuals
and governments can help those in need.

    Canadians Can Make a Difference

    Food Banks Canada is urging all Canadians, who are able, to make a
positive choice to donate food and funds, volunteer at a local food bank or
sign a petition to encourage government action, available online at

    Federal Government Action Needed Now

    Food Banks Canada is calling on the Federal Government to take additional
action to reduce the need for food banks.

    In the short term, it recommends the Federal Government:

    -   Create one eligibility level for Employment Insurance for all of
        Canada and extend benefits to 52 weeks

    -   Increase the value of the Canada Child Tax Benefit from
    	    approximately $3,300 to $5,000 per child, per year

    -   Increase federal funding allocated to housing repair and improvement
        in rural areas

    -   Provide increased and ongoing support to a system of early learning
        and child care that is affordable, inclusive and of high quality

    Along with these short term recommendations, Food Banks Canada also
supports the creation of a federal strategy to reduce poverty and hunger in
the long term.

    Background on National Hunger Awareness Day

    National 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 important part of the social safety net. Today, 707 food banks and
3,078 affiliated agencies distribute food or provide meals for hungry

    Food Banks Canada Corporate Hunger Heroes

    National 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. These Heroes include, Campbell Company of Canada,
Great West Life, Investors Group Inc., Kraft Canada Inc., McCain Foods
(Canada), Nestlé Canada Inc., Purolator Courier Ltd. and Sodexo.

    About Food Banks Canada

    Food Banks Canada is a 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

    (*) Source: HungerCount2008, Food Banks Canada. For the complete 2008
    HungerCount report please go to:

For further information:

For further information: Media Contact: Katherine Clark, Cowan &
Company, (416) 462-8773 ext. 55, katherine.clark@cowanandcompany.net

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