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Food Banks Canada CEO Kirstin Beardsley gets emotional when she talks about the affordability crisis—because the demand for her services keeps growing. Here she is in her own words:

Food banks aren’t that old in the social-service landscape—the first food bank in Canada was started in Edmonton in 1981. And it sparked across the country because so many people were in dire straits. No one ever thought food banks would be a permanent solution. The sense was, they would respond to this emerging need, collect some data to show where the needs were, and food banks would be able to close.

Instead, we’re seeing the highest level of food-bank use in Canadian history. And that’s the result of decades of neglect of our social safety net and income supports. And that’s meeting right now with the affordability crisis. The solution is long-term policy change. We need governments to have the courage to address issues that have been neglected for decades. And in the meantime, we need a strong food banking system in Canada.

We’re seeing the highest level of food bank use in Canadian history right now

The impact of hunger is felt at the individual level, at the community level, and at the societal level. We’ve seen studies about the impact of food insecurity on kids’ mental health, on their long-term physical health, on their behaviour. So the impact on the lives of individuals cannot be dismissed. But then there’s also the societal piece. What sort of possibility as a country are we depriving ourselves of when people are having to turn to food banks instead of being able to buy the food they need for their families? It’s a long-term cost for our ability to thrive as a country. And I wish we would think of that as we’re building government policy responses. It’s an investment in our ability to thrive as a country when we take care of people during tough economic times. We can’t only see how much that costs; we have to see how much it costs not to do that.

We released our first-ever poverty report cards, and what they really showed was that every province, every territory and the federal government have a lot of opportunity to invest in doing right by our neighbours to build a Canada where everyone has an opportunity to thrive. It’s not a report card you’d want to take home to your parents. No jurisdiction got an A+. And many got Ds.

What gives me hope is being able to work with food banks right across the country. I get emotional when I talk about how they just don’t quit. My hope comes from being able to witness the strength of folks who look at a pretty tough set of challenges, and instead of turning away, their instinct is to roll up their sleeves and continue to work as hard as anybody’s worked. It’s inspiring to play even a small part in supporting that nationally.

There’s a role for every single person to play in addressing food insecurity. That can mean learning more about the issues and talking to our kids about them. It can mean participating in food drives or advocating for long-term policy change. But everyone has a role to play in addressing this issue and seeing our vision of a Canada where no one goes hungry come true.

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