Ottawa’s children are on par with the national average, making up 37% of food bank users – in a city with the highest average total family income before tax – according to the HungerCount 2012 report released Tuesday.
“There’s still a lot of work that we all have to do to ensure that no one goes to bed or wakes up hungry here in the city,” said Ottawa Food Bank agency relations manager Michael D. Howard.
Each month, close to 900,000 Canadians are assisted by food banks, 38% of whom are children and youth.
The annual national report by Food Banks Canada looked at food bank use from March 2011 to March 2012.
During the same time frame, “we had about a 5% increase in people who would’ve been accessing one of the Ottawa Food Bank programs in the community,” said Howard.
Statistics Canada data from June reported Ottawa-Gatineau had the highest average total family income before tax – $90,790 – of all the large cities in 2010.
Nonetheless, more than 49,000 people were served in March among 140 member agencies.
The spike is significant, Howard said, “if you’re looking at how it’s affecting people on the ground — it would definitely impact a lot of our programs.”
Many places aren’t as large as the Ottawa Mission or the Shepherds of Good Hope.
“A lot of the programs are literally run out of church basements with one or two volunteers,” said Howard.
“So even an extra five to 10 people visiting these programs has a profound impact.”
At the same time, the food bank doesn’t solely supply the agencies.
“It varies from program to program, anywhere between say 60% to 80% of the resources that they distribute come from us,” said Howard.
That means smaller programs are forced to fundraise and collect food on their own.
Ottawans, though, have been generous.
The Thanksgiving food drive was a “record-breaking success,” said Howard.
With more than 300 pounds of food, “we’re continually thankful of the support that we do receive,” he said.
The 23rd annual Scouts Canada food drive is on Saturday.
Beavers, Cubs, Scouts and Venturers will be collecting items at Metro stores from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Most needed items include canned fish and meat, whole grain cereal, baby diapers and formula, dry pasta and sauce, and peanut butter.
For details, visit ottawafoodbank.ca