The season is upon us, and there is no better time to spread the cheer . . . and wealth.
When we think of Canada, Alberta, and Cochrane, thoughts are of buoyant, festive households brimming with all the holiday trimmings.
Thankfully, that is the case for most in our fair land. But there is a growing need among Canadians seeking assistance for the most basic of necessities.
Food being one of them.
More Canadians than ever are turning to food banks to help put meals on their tables. Food Banks Canada’s annual report indicates that in March this year, 852,137 people visited a food bank, up 1.3 per cent from last year.
While the 2015 number is slightly lower than the 10-year high of 2013, when 872,379 Canadians tapped into a food bank monthly, the report indicates concerning shifts in food bank use in the last 12 months.
About 80,000 Canadians withdrew from a food bank for the first time this year, on average, each month. About 36 per cent of food bank users are children – 305,000 of them. And the economy has negatively affected many Canadian families this year.
Unpacking the numbers further, the trickle-down consequences from the economic shock and awe currently gripping Alberta are even more telling as food bank use increased by 23 per cent in the snapshot month of March. Three-quarters of the province’s food banks reported increased demand.
In Cochrane, the Activettes Food Bank helped feed 1,752 individuals last year. Nearly half (44.5 per cent) were children. This number excludes the 2,500 healthy lunches the Activettes delivered to feed students through their school lunch program.
Since 2012, there has been a 27-per-cent increase in the number of people requiring food bank assistance in town. If the trend holds true, that number will rise when the 2015 stats are in.
The national food bank report and Cochrane’s own situation are authoritative reminders that food surety is an important issue and should share a space on everyone’s plate. And it should not all fall to government. Whether the government is there to help families in need or not, community food banks will remain the street-level distributors of food to the hungry and the most important cogs in the hunger recognition and distribution chain.
That means us.
Those visiting food banks come from all backgrounds – including families with children, employed people whose low wages do not cover basic living essentials, individuals on social assistance, and Canadians living on a fixed income – including seniors, veterans and people with disabilities.
Whether through the Cochrane Activettes Food Bank or the myriad of holiday food-collection initiatives currently on the go in town like the Cochrane High School Helping Hampers or the Stuff A Bus campaign, we have the power to feed the hungry.
It doesn’t have to be just at Christmas, either. It’s a year-round need.
Take action. It’s as simple as leaving a non-perishable food item or two in the donation boxes at the supermarkets in town. Or donate to Cochrane Activettes Food Bank. The Activettes are currently seeking non-perishables including large canned hams, tuna, peanut butter, rice, oatmeal, canned stew, canned chili, canned meats and canned fruit.
If you know someone in need of a Christmas hamper, call 403-813-2444. Deadline is Dec. 15.
For more on how you can help feed the hungry in Cochrane, visit cochraneactivettes.com