Food banks and the economic crisis: An open letter to federal political party leaders

    TORONTO, Oct. 9 /CNW/ - One month ago, a CBC/Environics poll found that
37% of Canadians were worried about being able to make ends meet. The
disturbing developments of the past week in the world's financial markets have
shown that they had good reason to worry.
    The Canadian Association of Food Banks is very concerned that the current
economic crisis could lead to an increase in hunger and food bank use in
Canada. As a national network of charitable food programs, we have reason to
be concerned during a weak economy. Food banks face an increase of people in
need of assistance, combined with a decline in donations of food and funds as
individual and corporate donors are forced to tighten their discretionary
    We are particularly concerned about two groups in particular: seniors,
and working people with a precarious hold on the labour market. Seniors, who
make up a small but significant proportion of people assisted by food banks,
may be facing drastic reductions in the value of their nest eggs. Working
people face job losses as businesses struggle with slackening demand, and with
finding the credit necessary to maintain their operations.
    More than 720,000 people in Canada are assisted by food banks every
month, and 2.7 million live in households where hunger is a daily and
distressing reality. The past 10 years have seen unprecedented economic health
in Canada overall, with GDP rising and unemployment declining. Nevertheless,
food bank use was 8.4% higher in 2007 than it was in 1997.
    As it is, downturns in Canada's manufacturing and forestry sectors have
kept food banks busy, particularly in hard-hit areas like Windsor, Thunder
Bay, northern Quebec and western Alberta. According to recently-released
Statistics Canada data, 247,000 manufacturing jobs were lost between 2004 and
2007. In the past year alone, employment in the forestry sector has plummeted
by 15%. And hunger is not limited to households in regions that have seen
economic downturns. Though we hear about the thriving energy and resource
development sectors in our western provinces, many in the west are being left
behind. Economic growth has brought with it rising costs of housing, gas,
heating oil and food. It is too often the case that those who have moved west
to find prosperity quickly discover that their most pressing need is to find a
food bank.
    After several years of economic growth, it is now crystal clear that a
rising tide does not lift all boats. On a daily basis, Canadians struggle with
hunger. This problem has been plaguing our country for almost three decades.
To properly address it, we need federal party leaders to provide visionary
leadership, focused into a realistic, long-term, actionable national poverty
reduction strategy. Though it touches many, hunger is too often a problem that
goes unvoiced. Our leaders must face up to the problem and join the search for
    Katharine Schmidt, Executive Director, Canadian Association of Food Banks

    The Canadian Association of Food Banks (CAFB) is a national charitable
organization representing the food bank community across Canada. Over 720,000
people access food banks each month - 39% are children. CAFB conducts
research, engages in public education and advocates for public policy change
to eliminate the causes of hunger in Canada. In 2007, the CAFB acquired and
shared 8 million pounds of food industry donations through its National Food
Sharing System for hungry Canadians.

For further information:

For further information: Shawn Pegg, Canadian Association of Food Banks,
(416) 203-9241, ext. 31

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