Home Read Our Blog March 2015 Let’s Check our Assumptions About People Who Access Food Banks

Let’s Check our Assumptions About People Who Access Food Banks

Let’s Check our Assumptions About People Who Access Food Banks
It is commonly said that food banks can cause dependence among those they help. A recent comment in the London Free Press opinion pages put it this way:
 
“Food banks are enablers. If there's free food available, then there will be
those who take advantage of them.”
 
After many years of speaking with food bank clients and staff, I know that this is simply untrue. The decision to use a food bank is an extremely difficult one. It is a great relief – a cause for celebration – when a person no longer needs help from a food bank. However, there has been no hard data to back up my subjective knowledge.
 
To address this lack of data, in 2011 we added new questions to our annual HungerCount survey, and now we can clearly show that there is a continual flow of people into and away from food banks, with an important minority accessing help for longer periods.
 
The key statistic is this: in 2014, 935,000 people stopped using a food bank.
 
Why is this important?
 
-          First, the dependence myth unfairly criticizes the important work of food banks, and underestimates the impact they can have in the lives of Canadians.
 
-          Second, the corrosive idea that aid leads to dependence demeans Canadians who need help through no fault of their own, and who are working hard to get back on their feet as soon as they can.
 
-          Lastly, the dependence myth distracts us from understanding the real issues that lead to long-term poverty and food bank use among those that need help for longer periods.
 
If we are going to significantly reduce the need for food banks, we need to be focused on the real issues at the root of the problem – like the lack of well-paying jobs in Canada, the decline of access to unemployment insurance, and the incredibly low level of support provided through social assistance.
 
I hope you’ll take time to read Food Banks and the Dependence Myth.
 
Contributed by: Shawn Pegg, Director, Policy and Research

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