More than 20 per cent of the province’s population struggles to keep the cupboards full, according to Statistics Canada.
As reported by a Statistics Canada’s study, Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest rate of food insecurity in the country.
According to the study, 23 per cent of the province’s residents don’t have a secure food supply.
With the rising cost of living since the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are using food bank services in Newfoundland and Labrador.
According to the Hunger Count Report from Food Bank Canada, food bank usage in Newfoundland and Labrador increased by 44 per cent compared to the numbers from 2019.
Jody Williams, an executive director at the Bridges to Hope Food Aid Centre, says the number of people using its food banks has tripled since 2019.
“I’ve never seen that number be that high,” Williams said. “Not even close.”
The food bank now serves between 40-100 people per day, Williams says, with Tuesdays and Fridays being the busiest. Four years ago, he says around 40 people would use the food bank on its busiest days.
School-age children are the biggest clients, he says, with over 300 children served each month.
Supplies are not enough to meet current demand, Williams says.
“There (are) never any supplies, every single day we go out and buy all new supplies,” he said, “It’s a day-to-day thing.”
The organization does not have one particular funder, says Williams, donations come from individuals and some businesses. There is no government funding.
Madi Hynes, a program assistant at Food First NL, says food insecurity is a major issue in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“Household food insecurity refers to when a household has inadequate or insecure access to food due to financial constraints,” Hynes said.
“The people who run the food programs are the kindest people. They are not there to judge you, they’re there because they want to help you.”Madi Hynes
Rising costs of living and inflation are contributing factors, she says.
People on social assistance are the major users of food bank services, says Hynes.
With the demand rising, some food banks and food program providers find it difficult to keep up with the supplies.
Some food program providers either have to shut down their services, she says, or cut the amount of support they provide to people because of the limited funding they receive.
Increasing social assistance rates and making it indexed to inflation, raising the minimum wage to a living wage and a school food program are ways to improve the current situation, she says.
Some people who need help are afraid to use services like food banks or food programs, she says. They would prefer working side jobs or asking for help from family rather than going to a food bank.
“People who could, but chose not to (don’t) use a food bank because of the fear of stigma,” she said, “The fear of the public shame that is associated with having to ask for help.”
It is important to remove the stigma, she says, people need to be more comfortable about using a food bank.
“The people who run the food programs are the kindest people,” Hynes said, “They are not there to judge you, they’re there because they want to help you.”