When can I have dessert? Finish your vegetables first.” This question might be heard at dinner tables everywhere. But what if there aren’t any vegetables, never mind dessert? Thirty three percent of Canadian children struggle with food security.  

Food insecurity is the lack of money to supply, provide, or buy food for oneself or family. The Canadian government reports that around fifteen percent of Canadian families suffers from food insecurity and use food banks as their main food source. In our growing, developing, and changing world, everything comes with a cost. Wish to contact someone on the phone? Forty dollars a month. Want to buy a new jacket? Two hundred dollars. Rent your own apartment? One thousand dollars a month. Even buying a week’s worth of groceries can cost a fortune, but food is a necessity, so what does one do when they can’t afford food?  

Most people carry a stereotype in their heads of who needs to use food banks and other supports in place to help those in need. The 2019 MacLean’s article by Nathan Sing explores the reality of who suffers from food insecurity in Canada. “Indigenous and Black people are more likely to face food insecurity than white people. And forget the toxic stereotypes of welfare moms blowing money on cigarettes—today’s typical food bank client is a working-age adult with a job.”  

When one thinks of food insecurity, stereotypical images of children starving in third world countries comes to mind. But stereotypes can have a basis in truth and there are thousands of people around the world with food insecurity, However, when we think of Canada, with its high standard of living, and abundance of resources, it is hard to envision food insecurity. But it could be a neighbour or a co-worker who must choose between rent and food, or a car payment and food. These people, who may not have enough support, care, ability, or supplies to purchase food, are average people among us in our communities.  

There are an estimated 10.34 million families in Canada. Making a comparison more comprehendable, imagine yourself standing in a room of twenty-four people, three of them do not have a way to provide food for their family or themselves. Food insecurity is widespread but specifically affects children. 1 in 3 Canadian teens are affected by food insecurity, and especially households led by single mothers tend to be more vulnerable to food insecurity than a family with two parents or guardians contributing.

“And forget the toxic stereotypes… today’s typical food bank client is a working-age adult with a job.” Nathan Sing

Food insecurity affects children and teens in many aspects of their lives. The amount of food one eats, affects one’s performance at school. If you have not eaten for a day, it is difficult to focus, keep motivated and work hard. Children and teens will be affected not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. Food insecurity and poverty come with stigma in our society; shame and embarrassment go along with not having enough to eat.   

Canada is one of the most expensive countries to live in, British Colombia especially. An article from Proof, by Tarasuk V. and Mitchell A. states that “84% of people living in food-insecure households in 2017-18 were in one of four provinces: Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, or British Columbia.” So why in a “first world country” do we have people struggling to put food on their families’ table? Canada is an expensive country, and we have a wide range of income. Almost ten percent of people in Canada are unemployed, a lack of steady income in an expensive environment can be dangerous. Most people struggling to pay rent also have struggles paying for transportation and most importantly, food. The Corona Virus has also caused several big problems for Canadian citizens. Even some people with steady income struggle to afford food. Housing alone can eat up someone’s budget leaving them with no money for food. About eighty percent of the world’s population is in debt, living paycheck to paycheck is not the ideal situation, especially when spending grows around Christmas. 

All over the world children experience food insecurity, luckily some schools in Canada have programs available to all children and provide free food programs.  They get teachers and parents to volunteer and cook the food, as well as, have a couple major sponsors and partners. Walmart, Costco, and the Government of Canada are just some of The Breakfast Club’s partners, which aims to feed hungry kids before school, so they can have a productive day. Programs like these helped over one million children last year and are some children’s only source of food. People experiencing food insecurity can also turn to Canada’s food banks and community food drives for support. Along with people needing food, one can donate and volunteer at food banks, this is a big help, and the experience is worthwhile.

We need to give this problem a voice! 

Featured image courtesy of: CTV news