Food bank use is on the rise in Alberta.
Last week, Food Banks Canada released its HungerCount report for 2021. The report looks into data from food banks across the country and highlights key findings.
In March 2021, 116,396 Albertans visited a food bank, an increase of 29.6 per cent over the last HungerCount report in 2019. 45 per cent of food bank users in the province are families, and 15.2 per cent of uses receive Provincial Disability Supports.
In rural Alberta, 30.5 per cent of food bank users are seniors or persons with a disability.
"The data reflects a perfect storm that has driven thousands of new families to local food banks over the past 18 months; noting rising food and housing costs, pandemic-related job loss and unemployment as the main factors for the increase in accessing food banks and their services," said Food Banks Alberta in a statement.
Fort Saskatchewan Food Bank executive director Kassandra Gartner said they had seen an increase in food bank usage, as well as a slight change in who is accessing their services.
According to Gartner, children and youth make up 40.6 per cent of the Fort Sask Food Bank's clients. She also explained that while their hamper count has remained consistent for the 2020-2021 year to date, 39 per cent of people served in 2021 are people who have not accessed the food bank in over a year or people who had never visited the food bank before.
"The food bank provides assistance in a number of ways; we provide emergency, short term, stopgap food supply, and then we're also seeing an ongoing need for support for those who are experiencing food insecurity," she explained.
With CRB and other pandemic-related financial assistance coming to an end or being significantly reduced, Gartner anticipates the need for the food bank's services will be higher. With Christmas around the corner, they're also expecting increased enrollment for their Christmas Hamper Program.