This month, the Ontario Association of Food Banks released their annual Hunger Report, highlighting the prevalence of food bank use and the need for emergency food services in this province. This past March, 375,789 Ontarians accessed a food bank. As you finish up your holiday shopping, please remember that there are so many Canadians going without this festive season.
This tax credit is groundbreaking for two reasons; the first of which being that farmers deserve, and need, a tax credit to help cover the costs of harvesting and transporting produce to food banks. Until this week, farmers donated thousands of pounds of fruits and vegetables out of sheer generosity to our provincial food bank network.
Food banks started in Canada many years ago as what is often described as a "band-aid solution" to the growing issue of hunger. Food banks were supposed to be temporary, local groups that fed the poor, while the government developed the official resolution to this societal problem. Unfortunately, this resolution was never found, and food banks are now a staple in each corner of Canada. Believe me when I say that food banks do not want to be in business. As a provincial association, a large part of our focus is on advocating on behalf of food banks and the clients that we serve. There is a reason that people are hungry, and it is not because of a lack of food in this country.
September is hunger awareness month. We are not talking about the developing world where food shortages have long been a menace to vast parts of its populations, but in one of the wealthiest places on Earth. Regrettably, the long-term effects of food deprivation, especially at a young age, are not always readily understood or considered.
In their 2012 Report, Food Banks Canada stated that in March 2012 alone, almost 900,000 Canadians turned to food banks. Canada needs to tackle hunger directly, rather than continue to pay out year after year for its long-term consequences. Hunger is toxic for those living through it, and it is harmful to Canada as a whole.
Give 30 is an initiative established in 2012, tapping into Ramadan's lessons on social solidarity, to mobilize everyone -- regardless of faith or background -- to address the challenges of hunger in our society. Hunger in Canada is not an issue of food scarcity. Rather, it is directly related to income sufficiency and security.
My son, Derrick was one of thousands of Canadian youth who went without food for 30 hours this past weekend, as part of World Vision's 30 Hour Famine. In school hallways and church basements from Toronto to Medicine Hat, kids banded together to put up posters, plan activities, and talk about what hunger feels like.
About 30 per cent of produce in North America does not make it to market simply because of the way it looks. The cost of food is expected to rise by almost 4 per cent over the next year, and by denying perfectly good fruits and vegetables access to store shelves, we are merely helping to steer food prices higher and higher. The time is now to stop this wasteful behaviour.
Just as we are learning of the new pressures on the demand for food among the marginalized, news broke of the ironic reality that Canadians waste $27 billion worth of food each year. If we broaden the issue out to include the United States, things don't look any better. It appears as though North Americans waste food on a grand scale.
Just a few days ago I joined Canada's newly appointed Minister of International Cooperation, Julian Fantino on a trip to Burkina Faso in West Africa. Throughout this visit I was struck by many sights and sounds that will stay with me for a long time -- evidence of how the crisis is affecting lives, how people are coping, and what more needs to be done to avert a crisis from becoming an all-out catastrophe.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food recently toured Canada and reported, "very desperate conditions, and people who are in extremely dire straits" in terms of hunger. The Conservative response was to deny the problem and to attack the credibility of the Rapporteur. The government is turning its back on almost three million Canadians who are struggling to meet their nutrition needs.
We are lucky to live in Canada, a prosperous nation. Sadly, Canadians not being able to afford food exists today. In fact, close to 900,000 individuals turn to food banks for assistance each month across the country -- a number equivalent to the entire population of New Brunswick. This is unacceptable.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food will present his preliminary findings on food security in Canada on May 16 in Ottawa. It's my hope that this will put child hunger squarely on the political agenda in Canada. We live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, but hunger is something that we increasingly see among the families that bring their children to the hospital for medical attention.