Hunger Has a Face: The Reality of Food Insecurity in Canada and How You Can Help
By: Sundeep Hans
How many times have you opened up your fridge or your cupboards and said “there is nothing to eat” while looking at the fully stocked shelves?
According to the World Food Programme, I am part of the lucky group of people who enjoys food security. I have access to safe and nutritious food at all times. A Canadian Community Health Survey report in 2012 found that there are four million people in Canada, roughly 13% of the population who do not. These people, including 1.15 million children, experience some levels of food insecurity.
When I share this information with my colleagues, friends and family, they are surprised. They can’t believe that such food insecurity exists so close to home. They can’t see it and neither could I because we don’t live it.
I started volunteering at Seva Food Bank in January of this year because I wanted to help people. What I didn’t expect was how much my Seva experience would help me. I have seen upwards of 700 local families (732 last month!) come into the two Mississauga locations – Malton and Wolfedale every month. Seeing this month after month, drove the point home for me – food insecurity is a reality for far too many people. People living in our cities, in our communities – our neighbours.
So how can you help?
Well if you’ve read this far, you’re already ahead of the game. In order to help, you need to at first care. After that you can do the following:
1. You can make your local food bank your charity of choice and donate generously! Come out to the fundraisers, golf tournaments, annual gala, and participate in the radiothons. Better yet, become a monthly donor.
Giving money to a food bank, more so than giving canned goods/food, ensures that your donation has the biggest impact. It is as Tristin Hopper says in this widely shared article a matter of “simple economics” because “canned goods have a particularly low rate of charitable return” and “the average consumer is buying those canned goods at four to five times the rock-bottom bulk price that can be obtained by the food bank itself.” Monetary donations allow food banks more flexibility to purchase the most needed food items. Also, they can stretch your donation of let’s say $20 to buy more nutritious and culturally appropriate food then you as an individual can for the same amount of money.
2. Food drives are also an amazing way to participate. Just be mindful of and try to stick to the “most needed items” list shared by your food bank.
I’ll give you an example. Last month, Seva Food Bank held its annual Guru Nanak food drive at over 20 locations and it was a huge success. It was successful because we got the items that we were in dire need of, and we got these items because Seva collaborated with the local grocery chains to create ready-made food bags worth $10 of the food items that the food bank actually needed.
3. You can also advocate for food security initiatives and policies. Tell your friends, family, colleagues, write your MP or MPP, and anyone else who will listen. Use social media to spread the word. Food insecurity is real. There are so many people, not far away mind you, but people living in our cities, in our communities — our neighbours — who see the empty shelves of their fridges and cupboards almost every day. It is a Canadian problem.
4. Finally, get involved! Volunteer your time and your energy because “those who can, do, those who can do more, volunteer”. Volunteering at a food bank is an eye-opening experience. You will see that hunger really does have a face.
I understand that food banks are not the solution to food insecurity issues. However, until there are broader systemic changes that tackle the larger issue of poverty, they do provide the much-needed help for people in need. They are necessary and will remain so until, hopefully, they are not.
To find out more about how you can get involved, please visit www.sevafoodbank.com.