Although food insecurity in kids has been an ongoing concern for well over 30 years in our city, the current economic situation has pushed food insecurity levels to historic highs. Food Banks Canada HungerCount 2016 reports a 17.6% increase in food bank usage in Alberta over 2015, one of the highest increases in the country.
Like poverty, food insecurity is a dynamic, intensely complex issue, associated with many factors in addition to poverty. Working poor families and single-parent families are at particular risk of food insecurity. Many families have at least one parent who is working, sometimes multiple minimum wage jobs in a desperate attempt to meet basic needs. Certain populations, such as 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. In Calgary, low-income families often pay a larger proportion of their income for housing than do higher income households, which decreases the funds available for other necessities such as utilities, transportation, clothing, and even medicine. Food tends to be the smallest part of the budget.
For many parents, economic hardship has become the new reality. The downturn in Alberta’s energy sector has led to thousands of job losses, and the subsequent ripple effect has traumatized the financial stability of hard-working Calgarians, leaving many who once had a secure financial foundation struggling to put food on the table.
In Calgary in 2015, the monthly cost of a healthy diet for an average family of four was just shy of $1,100, higher than the provincial average. Rising food prices, increased child care costs over the summer and back to school expenses make it increasingly difficult for parents to provide basic needs for their children. And sadly, the fear of stigma and social and physical barriers make it difficult to feel supported.
I Can for Kids is committed to our mission and to the kids who need us most, because leaving them hungry means leaving them behind.
But we can’t do it alone. Along with our generous supporters, our valued partners know firsthand the impact of food insecurity and the effect it has on children of all ages. It’s through their commitment that I Can for Kids can put ideas into action.
Health Canada reported that more than 1 in 12 households across Alberta had experienced moderate to severe food insecurity during 2012. If marginally food insecure Albertans are included in these statistics, the HFI prevalence grows to more than 1 in 10 households. Nearly 8 out of 10 food insecure households across the province relied on employment earnings as their primary source of income, yet they were still not able to afford enough food for each person living in the home.