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Stampeders aim to 'tackle hunger' as new report suggests 1 in 4 Canadians living in poverty

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Members of the Calgary Stampeders put their muscles to the test on Tuesday, bagging hundreds of pounds of food as part of an annual campaign to fight food insecurity and deliver essential items to those in need.

The Purolator ‘Tackle Hunger’ Program has helped distribute 22 million pounds of food nationwide since it began 21 years ago.

Fans are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items or cash donations to the upcoming June 29 home game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

The most needed food donations include canned meat and fish, pasta, rice, baby formula, cereal, peanut butter, canned vegetables and fruit, canned beans and cereal.

Cash donations however go a much longer way as the Calgary Food Bank can stretch each dollar it receives into $3.50 worth of food.

“One of the most basic human needs is food and it’s a growing issue that we have to continue to bring attention to and continue to show our support for,” said Stampeders defensive lineman James Vaughters.

In addition to the food drive, every time a CFL quarterback gets sacked throughout the regular season, Purolator donates the equivalent of the quarterback’s weight in food to the CFL hometown food bank.

In Calgary, the need for food is growing faster than ever before.

Melissa From, the CEO of the Calgary Food Bank, says the initiative is needed more than ever before as the city grows and demand increases.

“When I started as CEO of the Calgary Food Bank about 14 months ago, we were serving 450 households each say and today that number has gone up to about 700 households coming through our parking lot looking for emergency food support,” she said.

“We’re really sandwiched between inflation affecting our expense side while we buy fuel for our trucks and pay cash for our building and pay our staff, so we’re feeling the crunch of that demand.”

The issue of food insecurity is also a major challenge across the country as Food Banks Canada suggests the number of Canadians living in poverty is estimated at 25 per cent, compared to the official poverty rate of 10 per cent.

In its recent report, an estimated two million Canadians visited food banks in March 2023, which is an increase of 32 per cent from the same month one year prior and a 78.5 per cent hike in demand from March 2019.

This year’s report went on to find that many Canadians are also unable to afford two or more household essentials. That statistic includes 30 per cent of 18 to 30-year-olds, 44.5 per cent of single-parent households and 42 per cent of renters.

Stuart Smyth, the University of Saskatchewan’s agri-food innovation and sustainability enhancement chair, says the two million monthly food bank visits reflect several economic concerns.

“In sort of that post-COVID adjustment period we saw inflation being double digits for months on end and now that the workforce is back to the pre-COVID conditions, we haven’t seen wage increases or reimbursement anywhere near the level inflation was for that extended period of time,” he said.

Smyth adds that the cost of an average basket of food has dropped only about two per cent since February of this year to March, but there are still many other factors that have countered this marginal reduction.

“In May we saw dairy prices jump again, in April we saw the carbon tax go up significantly, so even though we get a slight decrease in food prices month-over-month, we’ve got the federal government and supply management that are taking all those savings away from us as consumers,” he said.

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