Hunger Awareness Week, May 4 to 9, is an initiative that reminds Canadians about the significance of hunger and malnutrition across the country. This month alone, nearly 850,000 Canadians will visit a food bank for assistance; of those helped 36 per cent will be children.
Here in Nelson, the Salvation Army, St. Saviour’s Food Pantry and the Nelson Food Cupboard serve a total of approximately 900 people every month. This includes seniors, youth, single adults and families.
“There are various reasons why people don’t have enough food,” says Phillip Jackson, Nelson Food Cupboard Society board director. “Unemployment, under-employment, and illness are often factors. No one wants to be in the position of lining up in a church basement to get the essentials for survival, but it can truly happen to anyone.”
The Nelson Food Cupboard’s recent survey indicated 19 per cent of their customers have some form of employment, 35 per cent receive a long term disability allowance, and 10 per cent a seniors pension.
“Our customers who do work are usually working temporary jobs for minimum wage, so have no security in knowing they can make ends meet for the long term nor any ability to plan financially,” added Marya Skrypiczajko, Nelson Food Cupboard Coordinator. “And all our customers struggle with the high cost of living, including renting homes, paying utility bills, paying for daycare, paying for unsubsidized medical care, and the list goes on and on.”
The food cupboard’s survey results also busted the myth that the local food banks are serving transients: 75 per cent of respondents have lived in the Nelson area for more than five years, and 61 per cent for more than ten years.
To learn more surprising facts like this, check out the Hunger Awareness Index at the Nelson Library’s Hunger Awareness Week exhibit, or stop by the Nelson Food Cupboard and the Salvation Army’s booths at the Garden Festival on May 9.
(CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story contained an incorrect figure for the percentage of respondents who have lived in Nelson for more than ten years.)