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Quebec food banks seeing a big increase in people looking for assistance

"Food insecurity is reaching new heights while the worrisome economic context suggests even more difficult days ahead."

Food bank workers fill baskets in this file photo.
Food bank workers fill baskets in this file photo. Photo by Pierre Obendrauf /Montreal Gazette

The number of people looking for assistance from Quebec’s food banks increased by 30 per cent over the space of a year, according to an assessment by the provincial organization overseeing their operations.

According to statistics contained in Bilan-Faim 2023, which was made public on Wednesday by the Banques alimentaires du Québec (BAQ), the province’s 32 regional food banks and their 1,300 community-level counterparts assisted nearly 872,000 people a month, an increase of 30 per cent compared with 2022 and 73 per cent compared with 2019, the year before the pandemic.

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Meanwhile, the number of food baskets handed out nearly doubled over the course of four years from 345,000 to 682,000.

“Food insecurity is reaching new heights while the worrisome economic context suggests even more difficult days ahead,” said BAQ director Martin Munger.

The worsening situation is putting pressure on community organizations, more than 70 per cent of which report having experienced shortages reported on the part of their usual suppliers. The BAQ is seeking emergency financial aid from the government to address the issue.

The profile of those who use food banks is also changing, with more and more of those seeking help also being employed. In 2023, 18.5 per cent of users derived most of their revenue from a job, compared with 13.5 in 2019.

For households, the increase in the price of groceries has been the most painful and persistent example of the recent hike in inflation. In September, the annual rate of food inflation stood at 5.9 per cent, according to Statistics Canada. In 2022, food inflation reached 9.8 per cent, the highest level since 1981.

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