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'Unprecedented numbers': Alberta sees huge demand at food banks

A new report from Food Banks Canada shines a light on the growing number of Canadians struggling to feed themselves.

The inaugural Poverty Report Cards aim to capture the different challenges facing each province and territory regarding poverty and food insecurity.

"Poverty is a reality for at least 2.8 million Canadians, and even more live with food insecurity. This dire situation has led to unprecedented numbers of food bank visits," reads the report.

"Our country needs a collective and concerted effort from all levels of government to ensure that poverty growth not only slows down but actually reverses course so that we can get Canada to a place where no one is forced to turn to a food bank to make ends meet."

The report card gives each province a letter grade by focusing on four main categories: experience of poverty, poverty measures, material deprivation and legislative progress.

Leading the way is Quebec with a B- while Nova Scotia trailed all other provinces with an F.

Alberta received a D, which is slightly below the national average of D+.

According to the report, Alberta saw a 73 per cent increase in demand at food banks across the province from 2019 to 2022, which was more than double the national rate for the same timeframe.

The report also shows that nearly half of all Albertans feel financially worse off today than just one year ago.

While the report highlighted several recent government initiatives to reduce poverty and assist low-income Albertans, it also put forward policy recommendations to address poverty and food insecurity in the province further.

Some of those recommendations include introducing a provincial poverty reduction strategy, expanding the temporary rent assistance benefit, dedicating 0.5 per cent of the provincial budget each year to affordable rental housing construction and raising the minimum wage to $17 per hour while also indexing it to inflation.

The Calgary Food Bank says they usually hand out roughly 500 emergency hampers daily during the busiest months of the year, but lately, it has been handing out approximately 700 hampers daily.

"We're continuing to see approximately 30 per cent increases year-over-year for demand and that's for our emergency food hamper program," said Betty Jo Kaiser, a spokesperson for the Calgary Food Bank.

"That's a big number. It's huge."

Nationwide, the report highlighted that about 43 per cent of Canadians feel financially worse off today than in 2022, while 22 per cent say they would be unable to cover an unexpected expense of $500 or more.

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