Countless studies recognize the health benefits of sitting down as a family to enjoy a home-cooked meal. Childhood psychologists and dietitians alike praise the practice for its boon to physical and mental health. While family dinner is common among many Canadian families, for more than 850,000 Canadians who rely on food banks, it's only possible thanks to the generosity of others.
In 2015, more than half of our food banks experienced an increase in food assistance requests. Alberta was especially hard hit. The drop in oil prices raised unemployment levels to 10 per cent, and three-quarters of food banks operating in the province reported an increase in the number of families that reached out to them for help.
However, the need spans the entire country -- millions of Canadians continue to struggle to make ends meet. Food banks across the country provide an essential service that is sought out by 80,000 new users every single month. We couldn't possibly meet their needs without your donations.
Although a typical donation consists of non-perishable food, cash donations are extremely valuable for food banks. Financial donations enable food banks to buy perishables like fresh milk, fruit and vegetables to round out hampers for families. A recent survey commissioned by Loblaw Companies Limited showed that only 24 per cent of Canadians realize money goes towards fresh food.
Without money, it would be nearly impossible for food banks to provide clients with a healthy dinner plate. That's because essentials like pasta, soup and beans pour in, while equally important items like fresh produce, meat and dairy items are in shorter supply. Financial donations create flexibility since they allow food banks to buy in bulk and stock up on most-needed items in cases where donations of a particular food group are scarce.
Money is also well spent by food banks on important operating costs like heating, gas for trucks and food-sharing and food recovery programs. Food banks and provincial associations have stated that a few hundred thousand dollars spent on these efforts can equate to a few million dollars' worth of food for families -- that means more hampers and more fresh meals at community food programs across the country.
Although 2014 was a disappointing year for donations nationally, financial donations were on the upswing in 2015. One of Canada's biggest food drive contributors, Loblaw, and its network of more than 1,100 grocery stores in communities across the country recently reported that their holiday food drive raised more than $1.7 million for local food banks, which could purchase as many as 1.7 million meals.
So far, the statistics are encouraging and we're extremely grateful to shoppers who participated in the program. As our biggest donation period comes to a close, we want to encourage everyone to keep food banks top of mind and consider making a financial donation to help more Canadians sit down to dinner together.
For more information on hunger in Canada or to make a donation, visit foodbankscanada.ca.
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