Anyone watching the news probably remembers seeing many stories about the increasing use of food banks across Canada.
The most recent Hunger Count Canada (2013 statistics) released on Monday, shows that in five years, food bank usage rose by 20 per cent in the province.
That translates into 94,000 British Columbians a year, needing a hand up to make ends meet.
Trail is part of the trend.
All the local food banks report that their services grow year-to year with more people seeking help to feed themselves or their families with weekly rations or monthly hampers.
The Trail Salvation Army Family Services reports a 17 per cent increase in food bank usage since this same time last year. In October alone, the Rossland Avenue site has supplied mostly young families and single men with 585 food hampers.
The organization’s soup kitchen served up 1,410 meals throughout the month and on top of that, launched a new program that focuses on school aged children called the Lunch Program.
Every two weeks a parent can pick up an additional box of sustenance that contains granola bars, fruit, juice boxes, bread and lunch meat so his or her child has a daily lunch at school.
“It’s hard for people to come in and ask for help,” says Linda Radtke, from the Trail branch. “That’s why we always say we are not giving a hand out, we are giving a hand up.”
An underlying problem, according to Hunger Count, is that although the country is in a time of apparent economic recovery, the root of the problem is low income – both short and long term.
This includes the Greater Trail area after a local gender-based study by Women Creating Change, showed that one-third of the local female labour force works in lower-wage occupations.
The report highlighted the fact that in a two-parent-two-child family, each parent must work 35 hours a week, and earn $18.15 per hour for a net income of $60,000 to live in Greater Trail – and that’s nothing extravagant, just basics like healthcare, transportation and child care.
Additionally, the report revealed than the share of single parent Income Assistance caseloads in the Lower Columbia was 29 per cent, which is higher than the B.C. average of 25 per cent in Sept. 2011.
Dorothy, (who only gave her first name due to the food bank’s privacy guidelines) a long time volunteer at the Beaver Valley United Church food bank, says the need for the Fruitvale-based service fluctuates, as do the people accessing it. Young couples and young families to seniors or those on disability have accessed the church’s food hamper program, which is held every Thursday.
She maintains that the growing use of food banks isn’t about numbers– rather it’s a human interest story.
“People are almost apologetic for having to come to the food bank,” she said. “They are all very appreciative, “Dorothy explained. “But there are very different reasons for needing help. Our idea is not to furnish them with all the food they need, it’s to be a stop gap to help them through a period when everything seems to run out, or until their next cheque.”
Within rural B.C., the Hunger Count report identifies women as the largest demographic sector accessing food banks, and the household type is mostly single people followed by single families.
In Radtke’s experience as services manager at the Trail Salvation Army branch, those percentages are reflective of Trail, because she notes most clients are single men, followed by young families.
“Even when it’s a couple or family that needs the hamper, the male almost always comes in to pick it up,” she added. “For quite awhile now, most of our hampers are going to single men, not women.”
To donate to the Beaver Valley Food Bank, contact Dorothy at (250) 367-9965.