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The Growing Need for Food Banks

Food bank usage is breaking records—why it matters and how you can help


Last year, more people used food banks than at any other time in Canadian history. This year, Kirstin Beardsley, CEO of Food Banks Canada, says the historic trends are continuing. She calls it a “quiet problem” that affects every community, and most people don’t realize the vital role that food banks play in our society. Together, we can make a difference.


Rising food insecurity

Unemployment is at a near-record low. Despite this, nearly 7 million Canadians—including vast numbers of children—are going hungry.

“We’re breaking records almost every month,” says Beardsley. Historically, she says food banks served people with no income or fixed incomes. Today, food bank clients look very different.

“We’re seeing a lot of first-timers,” she explains. “People aren’t earning enough, and they’re stretched with their expenses. We’re having people with jobs who are having to choose between paying their rent, buying school supplies and clothes for their kids, and getting food.”

The numbers are staggering

  • Food bank usage jumped by 35 percent between 2019 and 2022.
  • Clients’ top reasons for using food banks include rising food prices, skyrocketing housing costs, and a lack of social support from provinces.
  • A third of food bank clients are children, with most under the age of 11.
  • Many first-time food bank clients are two-parent households with both parents employed.


Food for today and for a better tomorrow

Think of the food bank as not just a grocery store for those in need but a force for positive change.

“We want to relieve hunger today, and relieve hunger tomorrow,” says Beardsley. This includes advocating for policies that ensure we see fewer people needing food banks in the future. And that can help us create a Canada we’re all proud of.

“We need to look at what hunger and food insecurity does to society,” suggests Beardsley. For example, studies show that hunger and malnutrition have long-term negative effects on children’s ability to learn, develop, and grow. Similar effects were found in adults.

“It’s a lost opportunity for us as a country,” says Beardsley, pointing out that Canada’s biggest problems—such as climate change—require us all to bring our A-game. “When you’re feeling hungry, you’re not at your best. We’re shortchanging ourselves if we aren’t [feeding].”

“It’s an immediate problem, but we also need to solve the issue at its root,” advises Beardsley, which is why food banks play a pivotal role in lobbying local and federal governments to address the causes of food insecurity.


Get help and help others

Food banks want to see themselves put out of business, and that’s where you and I come in.

“When a groundswell of people are talking to their local elected officials and making food insecurity and hunger an election issue, the doors open much wider for food banks to work with politicians and enact policies that address food insecurity at its root,” says Beardsley.

“I just encourage people to understand how close they are to this issue, and that it touches their lives even if they don’t see it,” she adds.

“Learn about it. Become aware of the depths of the issue. Talk about it within your spheres of influence. Bring it up in your school committees, community meetings, and with your local and federal leaders. We need more people to open their eyes to the issue.”

And if you’re someone who needs support, don’t be afraid to reach out. There’s no shame in asking for help.

“Food banks across the country exist because we want to support our neighbours,” says Beardsley. “It’s an act of great courage and strength to ensure you have what you and your family needs.”

How to support your local food bank


Cash is king

In the past 10 years, Kirstin Beardsley, CEO of Food Banks Canada, explains food banks have invested heavily in fresh food—this comes with rising costs such as refrigeration. Food banks also have significant purchasing power, which lets them buy food cheaper than an individual could.

“If people are looking for the best way to support their food banks, their dollar goes further if they give it directly to the food bank,” says Beardsley.

Ask about current needs

Food banks serve the unique needs of their local demographics, including culturally appropriate foods. Contact your local food bank and ask what specific food items they’re seeking.


Not only do you get to directly help those in your community, but it’s also a powerful way to learn more about the needs of food banks and become an advocate for political change.

A quiet problem

“Hunger affects all of us, even if you don’t see it,” says Beardsley. “People don’t talk about needing a food bank. I can guarantee you know someone who goes to a food bank. It’s kids in your child’s school. It’s people in your places of worship. It’s your neighbours.”

An advocacy angle

Food banks pressure politicians to act on food insecurity. Your vote counts. “It’s not okay for so many Canadians to be reliant on food banks,” says Beardsley. “This isn’t the society we want to build, so food banks advocate for change. We talk directly to politicians, but what we need is a movement of people who tell their leaders this is an issue they care about. Make it unavoidable for politicians not to take action.”

How to find your local food bank

Visit to find the nearest food bank. “A lot of people don’t go to a food bank because they think someone else is in greater need—that’s a very Canadian way of thinking,” laughs Beardsley. “But please know that if you’re struggling, your local food bank is there for you. We’re here to get you back on your feet, and we will continue to be here for you.”



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