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Food Banks Canada working to combat food insecurity in the summer

A worker fills the warehouse with boxes of donated food at the Daily Bread Food Bank in Toronto on September 16, 2016.

Glenn Lowson/The Globe and Mail

Close to one million people – including more than 300,000 children – will rely on food banks across Canada this summer. But donation levels usually plunge this time of year, which can wreak havoc on families and others who suffer from food insecurity.

To combat the usual drop in donations throughout the summer, Food Banks Canada has launched #EveryPlateFull, a national fundraiser and food drive that runs until June 9. The Globe and Mail's Dave McGinn spoke to executive director Katharine Schmidt about the campaign and the challenges of the season.

Why run this campaign now?

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Summer is a particularly challenging time for food banks. Donations tend to fall and demand remains high. In some cases, it's even harder for families over the summer.

Why is summer especially hard for families who have to deal with food insecurity?

One of the reasons is that school programs that typically have a breakfast or a lunch program – the kids aren't in school and, therefore, they aren't getting that extra food. Every meal makes a difference and the families really feel it.

And why do donations drop off in the summer?

We believe it's primarily because everyone is out of their routines. People who are in a routine of buying an item or a couple of extra items when they do their weekly grocery shop and drop it in the food bank bin at the store, they're on holidays, they're doing different things, so they're not making those regular donations. And then also, schools aren't running food drives, [nor are many] places of business, places of worship. And so donations tend to dry up.

This summer, 918,000 people across Canada will use food banks. That is a massive number.

It's huge. And that number is actually 26 per cent higher than it was before the recession hit in 2008. The numbers are up and they're not declining, so food banks are constantly having to continue to serve their local communities at that high level.

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What is the goal of the campaign?

We know that food banks will be providing 26 million meals over the summer. The goal of this campaign is three million meals, which means raising three million dollars. For every dollar that gets donated that will equate to three meals.

One dollar buys three meals? How is that possible?

It's possible because food banks are very efficient. A lot of the support from food banks is done by volunteers, a lot of their food is donated, so that money is really leveraged through donated support and that's why it goes as far is it does.

I think about the food bank a lot over Thanksgiving and Christmas, when there are so many reasons to reflect on good fortune, but to be honest it almost completely drops off my personal radar after that.

Hunger doesn't take a summer holiday, unfortunately. We are looking for people to think about their fortune in the summer, and if they can give now before they go off on their summer holiday it would really be greatly, greatly appreciated.

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