As an organization dedicated to ending childhood summer hunger, we hear a lot of misconceptions about food insecurity. These myths are prevalent in our society, however, the reality of the situation is that a large number of Calgarians struggle to put food on the table every day. In 2016, 127,000 Calgarians were living below the poverty line and unable to meet their basic needs. By changing our perceptions about food insecurity, we can help bring it to an end in our city.
1. In a large city, like Calgary, children are not going hungry
In 2018, the demand for food packs from the I Can for Kids summer food program will increase by 60%. Hunger in a large city can sometimes go unnoticed. In 2015, the monthly cost of a healthy diet for an average family of four in Calgary was just shy of $1,100, which is higher than the provincial average. Children of immigrant families and large families, families headed by single women, families with less education, and families experiencing parental separation, divorce, or mental and physical health challenges are at greater risk.
2. All kids look forward to a break from school
Sadly, for many low-income students, summer isn’t the welcome break that it is for many of their classmates. While school nutrition programs provide valuable resources for hungry kids, these kids may be on their own once summer rolls around. Having a break from school often times means that many students do not have a reliable source of food for the summer months.
3. Food insecurity is not a real issue
Food insecurity refers to not having dependable access to food that is affordable and nutritious. Following tough economic times, this has been a growing issue in Calgary. Food Banks Canada HungerCount 2016 reported a 17.6% increase in food bank usage in Alberta over 2015, one of the highest increases in Canada.
4. Childhood hunger does not lead to further issues later in life
Childhood hunger can have short term effects such as behavioural or emotional issues, but there are long term effects linked to it as well. Research has found that food insecurity in one’s childhood has been linked to significant health problems in adulthood including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and mental health issues.
5. Teenagers can take care of themselves
Hunger has no age limit, teenagers suffer from the effects of hunger just the same as younger children. While part-time work for teenagers is a viable option, often times prospects for work can be extremely limited and may not make a large enough difference in their family’s food insecurity. In high-poverty communities, research has found that some teens resorted to selling drugs, shoplifting, or engaging in sexual acts to make ends meet. As a result, food insecurity can have detrimental effects on teenagers in other aspects of their life, including their education, as they may be more susceptible to dropping out before graduating. However, many teenagers actively choose to hide their hunger, refusing aid in a public setting, fearing the stigma involved. Some may even resort to dumpster diving.
6. Your donation won’t make a significant difference
A small donation of $5 to I Can for Kids feeds a hungry child for a day or more. Whether donating online, or purchasing a $5 food pack at any Calgary Save On Foods locations from April 27-May 31, 2018, it will make a huge difference to a hungry child in Calgary this summer.