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EDITORIAL: The face of hunger in St. Albert is changing

"Food insecurity is often a hidden issue in affluent communities"
St. Albert Food Bank's first-ever Spring Food Drive May 1 had low turnout, and the organization is asking the community for donations again due to heavy uptake.

In a videotaped interview with Food Banks Alberta May 12, Suzan Krecsy, St. Albert Food Bank's executive director, said part of the reason for that is many of the people who used to be donors are now receiving support – people driving nice vehicles who live in relatively large homes.

In a community known across Canada for its high standard of living, the face of hunger is changing.

As the pandemic wears on, the number of St. Albertans who don't know where their next meal is coming from continues to climb.

Krecsy said there are several factors making this a reality.

High unemployment rates, lack of full-time work, and being hit with much higher bills once COVID-19 payment deferrals come due means people are coming in with $1,000 power bills and no money to pay them.

Donations typically drop at this time of year, but that pinch is also being felt, full-on, now that the food bank's regular school-driven efforts have all but stopped due to closures and home-based learning.

Food insecurity is often a hidden issue in affluent communities, where the commonly-held perception is that most of us can afford school fees, soccer gear, dance classes, and cash for field trips. The reality is St. Albert has always been home to a broad range of socioeconomic households, with varying abilities to foot the bill for basics.

The time isn't just now to support the organizations that support our neighbours, our colleagues, and the kids who play with our kids. It has always been time to normalize giving, and also receiving, as anyone who has felt shame or defeat at having to ask for food will attest to.

About one in seven Canadians, 14.6 per cent, were estimated to live in a food-insecure household in May 2020, according to Statistics Canada, up from 10.5 per cent in 2018. That translates to more than 10,000 St. Albertans living with food insecurity.

No doubt these numbers will have grown once we receive the data from 2021. Judging by anecdotal reports from the country's food banks, this is likely, as more are struggling to keep enough food on the shelves to serve the ever-growing demand.

The sheer amount of food it takes to do so is staggering. 

The St. Albert Food Bank's support numbers during the pandemic have consistently hovered around 100 families a week. With a conservative weekly grocery bill of $200, that's roughly $80,000 worth of food each month. It's a lot of food – an immense and very regular need.

Behind those numbers are homeowners, renters, who are only a couple of lost paycheques away from having to decide whether to pay the heating bill or buy groceries. They deserve our help every day, not just in the midst of a crippling pandemic.

With that in mind, we must rise to meet the unique challenges facing the food bank, with compassion and humility, and keep that momentum by donating throughout the year.

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