This spring, over 882,000 Canadians used a food bank in the month of March alone.
On Tuesday, Food Banks Canada released their annual "HungerCount" findings. The report, which breaks down food bank use in all provinces and territories, also provides solutions on how Canada can meet the demands of the people using food banks every day.
"We were hopeful we might see the numbers come down but there was an increase by 2.5 per cent. This is telling us that we have a weak economy, inadequate social programs and this is causing people to struggle," says Katherine Schmidt, executive director of Food Banks Canada.
And you may be surprised by who uses a food bank these days: Working people, two-parent families, seniors and homeowners all rely on food banks for grocery staples and daily meals. Despite these changes, children and youth, people on social assistance, single-parent families and those who identify as Metis or First Nations, are still considered the groups with the highest need for help.
In 2011, a report released by The Recession Relief Coalition argued the number of malnourished and chronically hungry Canadians was growing at an alarming rate. The coalition found that affordable housing, access and purchasing power for nutritional foods and looking at mental health issues should all be taken in consideration when trying to pinpoint the root cause of hunger in Canada.
"A number of studies tell us that poverty has a number of costs for social services and health care. The cost of not doing something about poverty could be more expensive than investing to reduce it," Schmidt tells The Huffington Post Canada.
Story Continues Below: LOOK: Food bank usage by province and territories in March 2012:
"HungerCount" also found that not all regions faced the same type of demand. As expected, larger populated provinces like Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, saw the highest need for food banks in the month of March. During the same month, over three million meals were prepared and served by soup kitchens, shelters, schools, breakfast programs and other initiatives across the country.
And higher demands also meant more donation requests from food banks themselves. In the last year, 14 per cent of food banks ran out of food and 55 per cent of them have spent more to keep up with demands.
So how do you tackle a giant problem like hunger? There really is no easy answer, but Schmidt and the report suggest that all levels of government should work with cities to increase affordable housing spaces (people should not have to choose between rent or food), increase social investment in northern parts of Canada and address the issue of at least 60 per cent of Canadians living from paycheque to paycheque.
Besides donating food or funds to local food drives, other initiatives Canadians can get involved with include challenges like The Saskatoon Food Basket Challenge, which urged Canadians to look at how much food they were wasting daily, volunteer with organizations like Meal Exchange that already have scheduled monthly projects, and if you're up for it, start your own drive at your workplace or home to get the conversation started.
To read the rest of the findings, please click here.