We all complain about having nothing to eat.
You could have a smoothie or cereal for breakfast, but you don’t feel like either. On rare occasions when there’s literally nothing to eat – the fridge is home to condiments and one withered carrot – we can always go out to our favourite sandwich place and grab a bite.
But for many Canadians, that’s not an option.
Thirteen percent of Canadians suffer from food insecurity – the inability to reliably access adequate amounts of quality, nutritious food. People who receive social assistance are more than three times as likely to not get enough to eat, but low-income families or people on a fixed income are also at risk.
This problem isn’t just about being hungry: people who can’t get enough to eat tend to suffer from chronic health problems like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and depression.
Food insecurity doesn’t just affect individuals; it affects the entire community – so we’ve compiled a list of things you can do to help.
Start a community garden
Not everyone can get fresh fruit and vegetables. Only 40% of items distributed through food banks are perishable, and buying them from the store can be prohibitively expensive. By setting up a community vegetable garden, you can make it possible for more people to have access to fresh food.
There are a number of different things you can do with the produce after it’s grown: donating it to a food bank or a soup kitchen is always a good idea, but it’s not the only one. If you live in a high need area, you can offer your produce for free to local residents. Or you could use it to make a community dinner. The options are endless and the help you’ll give to people can make a big difference in their lives.
Volunteer in the Downtown Eastside
For Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, it might not necessarily be income that causes food insecurity, but an inability to make food. Shelters and single room occupancy hotels rarely have facilities to allow people to make their own meals – meaning that even if they could afford groceries, it would be very difficult to turn them into healthy meals.
There are a number of different programs you can join in the area: you can volunteer with Bumpin Bakery, which hands out muffins on Sundays, or set up your own Sidewalk Supper through the SIDEWALK supper project, or join SUBWAY as it hands out ready-made meals in the Downtown Eastside for National Sandwich Day on November 3.
Petition the government
In Vancouver, the average cost of a healthy variety and amount of food for a family of four is $944.16 a month – something that’s out of reach for many families, especially if they spend more than 30% of their income on housing. And with the outlandish housing market and high rental prices, more and more of us will be in that boat.
By petitioning the government to create more subsidized housing for low income families, bring in rental standards and improve housing market regulations, we may be able to help more British Columbians get enough to eat. Bringing your concerns to the government doesn’t have to be difficult: write your councillor an email, visit them in person or set up an old-fashioned paper petition.
Donate to food banks
Donating to food banks is one of the best known ways to help solve hunger in Canada. More than 850,000 Canadians visit food banks each month – a number that’s gone up 26% since 2008. It doesn’t take much to make a difference through the food bank: every dollar donated helps to provide three meals to people in need.
On November 3, National Sandwich Day, Food Banks Canada donates a meal for every sandwich purchased at your local SUBWAY. If you can’t get make it in, then you can simply add a $1 donation to your sandwich purchase anytime from November 3 to November 30. Proceeds from the donations will go to the food bank in the area where the donation was made, meaning your donation is helping hungry people in your own community.
Food insecurity is a major problem in Canada, but it doesn’t have to be an unsolvable one. Everyone can do little things to help make food more accessible and affordable – and there have already been major successes from individuals and large companies.
During last year’s National Sandwich Day campaign, SUBWAY raised $40,000 for local food banks, and the restaurant chain is hoping to exceed that amount this year. So if you’re hungry in November, don’t hesitate to stop in at SUBWAY – you’ll be helping other British Columbians fill their stomachs too.