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Through found phrases, Claire Cameron assembles a poetic picture of hungry people failed by the system

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Shipment from a Toronto grocery store to a food bank (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press)

Claire Cameron is a novelist and essayist whose books include The Bear and The Last Neanderthal. This piece was assembled using more than 30 stories of the personal experiences of food bank clients, volunteers and staff.

People line up

We didn’t want charity my mother’s shame cut so deep she works seven days a week when her freezer is empty she unplugs it saves money on electricity

It is hard to ask for help the feeling of being embarrassed faced with possible eviction with the rising cost of groceries paying for more fuel to heat there’s just nothing left

People who never thought walk through the doors for the first time one in 10 people the highest annual surge children make up almost a third

All types of people including those who work full-time retired teachers and nurses mothers with small children students who haven’t eaten wages and support programs lag behind

An elderly man being treated for cancer he just couldn’t make ends meet long lines of seniors parents have been skipping meals so their children can eat

The last time they gave the vegetables I think that they were potatoes she chooses a carton of fruit cups a small but mighty can of tuna ground beef gave him the strength to stay alive a pack of diapers is really helpful, too

Staff do their best they are working as hard as they can the toughest of times a little less daunting no words to describe how grateful I felt that love was what kept me alive

I’m not hungry anymore I could focus the strength to stay alive I finished high school a full belly was one of our first steps towards a fuller life

Food bank usage a symptom of policy failures the word “crisis” comes up in one of the wealthiest countries people are being squeezed how did we get here?

More found poetry from Claire Cameron

My memories are being erased

I’m not the only one

Winter of our discontent

I will never forget

The floods of September

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