By: Harshita Chopra
The 2019 Food Banks Canada’s annual report shows food bank visits have increased by 48 percent in British Columbia. Stagnating wage growth and the increasing cost of housing, rent, and food are the driving causes of the growing food insecurity in the province. Canada’s Food Price Report 2020 forecasts a two to four percent increase in food prices in 2020. Wages, however, are only expected to increase by 2.6% this year, according to the Fair Wages Commission of British Columbia. With stagnating wages, consuming a nutritious diet continues to be a challenge for Canadians.
Even though the Okanagan is a region of diverse and productive food lands, 15% of the people experience food insecurity in the region, says the Central Okanagan Policy Council Report. “Food insecurity impacts people from all walks of life, posing a number of complex challenges. It increases the likelihood of distress, depression, and social isolation”, reads the report.
UBCO Campus Health Research Coordinator Casey Hamilton points out that as the cost of living, such as housing and food, keeps increasing, more people rely on food banks to make ends meet. “Food is usually the thing that comes last in a budget, so it’s the one thing that people tweak and move around because the other things usually have to be paid first,” adds Hamilton.
Rising food prices affect food banks in many ways, explains Eva Lena, the founder of Land to Table Network. Firstly, any increase in food prices affects struggling people, increasing their reliance on food banks. Secondly, the purchasing capacity of food banks decreases with rising food prices. Lastly, people donate less, as they must spend more for their own consumption, explains Eva.
The increased reliance on food banks in the Okanagan has resulted in their expansion. The Westside Community Food Bank and Kelowna Community Food Bank joined forces in 2015 to improve services to the community. Now known as the Central Okanagan Food Bank, they serve 3,500 to 4,500 people every month. Since collaborating, they have doubled their collection and distribution of fresh perishable food. As part of their 2020 objectives, they aim to improve food rescue efforts to keep pace with the growing need for food banks in the region.
Visit cofoodbank.com to learn more about the program.