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Volunteers sort donations at the Daily Bread Food Bank in Toronto, on May 19, 2022.Galit Rodan/Globe and Mail

Food insecurity and poverty are worsening across Canada, according to a new report that says governments in the country are not adequately responding to the crisis.

Food Banks Canada’s annual poverty report card, released Wednesday, says that one in four Canadians have unstable or inadequate access to food. Forty-four per cent Canadians say they are financially worse off this year compared with last year, the national support network of food banks found.

“When you look at big numbers like that, you forget that it’s real people behind those numbers. These are families, these are kids who go to school without anything in their lunchboxes,” said Kristin Beardsley, chief executive officer of Food Banks Canada, in an interview.

Food insecurity is on the rise in all 10 provinces, the report card says. Saskatchewan saw the steepest increase, with the rate rising to 28 per cent from 20.3 per cent.

Visits to Canadian food banks have increased by 50 per cent since 2021, Ms. Beardsley said, and “if we see these rates of growth continue, I can tell you that food banks will get to a point where they’re not able to serve the need.” She added that “that is a really scary prospect.”

Wednesday’s report card assigns letter grades to each government in Canada and indicates that they are not sufficiently responding to the crisis. Ottawa received a D- in 2024, down from a D last year. The majority of provincial governments received grades in the D range.

Concern over the cost of living during a period of above average inflation has become a central issue in federal politics. Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and his party frequently make reference to Canadians’ growing use of food banks as part of their attacks on the Liberal minority government.

Mr. Poilievre raised the report’s findings during Wednesday’s Question Period: “After nine years of the NDP-Liberal Prime Minister’s taxes, debt, inflation and promises, Canadians are hungry. Literally,” he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government is investing in supporting Canadians in need through initiatives such as a national school food program. This year’s federal budget included one billion dollars over five years for that program, as well as a total of nearly $200-million for various food security projects.

Ms. Beardsley said existing projects to combat food insecurity and reduce poverty are “great” but do not do enough to alleviate financial pressures on Canadians in the short term: “We need to make sure people who are not able to afford their lives today have some relief.”

Some food banks have already needed to reduce their hours of operation and decrease the amount of food given out, she said.

The Food Banks Canada report card outlines some policy recommendations, including a grocery benefit for low-income shoppers and a housing benefit for renters.

Ms. Beardsley said she is hoping to see different levels of government work together to alleviate poverty. But at the moment, federal programs are at risk of being undercut by other levels of government, she said. One example she pointed to was the potential for federal benefits to become income that is penalized when one applies for provincial support.

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