Food Bank Use is On the Rise in Calgary. How You Can Help.
The Calgary Food Bank has seen a 10% increase in people accessing its service each month since June. Here’s why and what you can do to help.
The use of food banks across Canada has been on a steady rise since 2008. Alberta is experiencing some of the biggest changes, with a 48% increase over the past six years – a number double the national average.
The Hunger Count, an annual report by Food Bank Canada, was released this November, citing a 2.3% increase in the province since last year alone.
“And, this number may have been true back in March [when the data was collected],” says Shawna Ogston, communications manager at the Calgary Food Bank. “But in June we saw a 10% increase, July we saw another 10% increase, and the same for August, September and October.”
Ogston often finds herself being asked the question, “How could there could be such poverty in such a rich province?” She explains that the high cost of living in Calgary is causing a disparity in wealth.
According to the report, 12% of Canadians using food banks are working. In Calgary, 38% of the people using food banks are working. High housing costs, a 1% vacancy rate, transportation expenses and expensive parking, coupled with one of the lowest minimum wages in the country, have produced what Ogston describes as a high level of “the working poor” in Calgary.
Stephanie Rigby, executive director at Alberta Food Banks, also notes that the high cost of housing in urban areas is driving people to the food banks.
“Everyone needs a roof over their head,” she says. “So most people will opt to pay their rent and then figure the rest out later. That’s where a big gap exists.”
According to Vibrant Communities Calgary, an individual needs to earn $17.29 per hour without benefits, or $16.14 per hour with benefits, to make a living wage in the city. Yet, minimum wage just went up to $10.20 per hour this year.
“It’s such a stark contrast to this robust and booming economy we have in Alberta,” says Rigby.
“There’s no denying that there’s an incredible amount of work, and the economy is in great shape – but not everyone is being brought along with that growth. Whether it’s a lack of affordable housing, no access to a job in their skill set, or a lack of social assistance, there is still a huge part of our society that’s struggling every day to put food on the table.”
How To Help
Where to Donate
Drop-off bins are located in all major grocery stores, including Save-On-Foods, Safeway, Sobeys, Co-op and Superstore. During the holiday season, they can even be found in retail outlets, from Telus stores to comedy clubs. They accept all dry items, and have collectors come every day to bring the food to the warehouse.
The Calgary Food Bank also houses Western Canada’s largest fridge and freezer, so they welcome all fresh items, but they need to be brought to the warehouse directly at 5000 11 St. S.E.
What to Donate
Shawna Ogston says that financial donations are always appreciated. The Calgary Food Bank ensures that every hamper of food is balanced and sometimes need to purchase food themselves to make sure that meat, eggs and milk are given to the people who need them. Through their resources, Ogston says the food bank is able to stretch every dollar donated into $5 worth of food.
Food donations are also always in high demand. The best items to donate are:
- Canned protein, such as tuna, salmon or chicken. Opt for the flip-top cans in case the person or family in need don’t have access to a can opener.
- Low-sodium canned vegetables and fruit
- Staples such as canned beans, whole-grain pasta and pasta sauce
- Christmas items, such as canned cranberries or Stove Top
- Baby food and formula
- Oatmeal and peanut butter
- Canola and olive oil
Call ahead at 403-253-2059 or visit the website to organize a time to help arrange hampers, organize your own food drive or offer a helping a hand at fundraising events.
For more information on the Calgary Food Bank, visit calgaryfoodbank.com