Food Banks Canada’s Hunger Count 2011 confirms an observation, which the Common Front for Social Justice sees on the ground in New Brunswick. “More and more citizens have to rely on food banks to survive,” says Linda McCaustlin, co-chair of the Common Front for Social Justice.
In 2008, at the beginning of the economic downturn, there were 15,638 food bank users in the province of New Brunswick. Every year since then, there has been an increase in the numbers: 17,889 in 2009, 18,517 in 2010 and 18,539 in 2011.
Within the last four years, close to 3,000 more New Brunswickers were assisted by their local food bank. The Common Front for Social Justice says that the increases in food bank usage can be explained by a loss of 6,000 full-time or part-time jobs in the province during the last year; cutbacks in well-paying jobs in the provincial and federal public sectors; delays in the projected minimum wage increase (scheduled for September 1, 2011, delayed to April 2012); and the result of a three-year freeze on most social assistance rates.
“Sadly, we foresee that the situation will continue to worsen in the coming years,” says John Gagnon, the other co-chair of the Common Front for Social Justice.
The Hunger Count 2011 National Report indicates that close to 50% (49.7%) of New Brunswick food bank clients are women and this applies in both urban and rural areas. One-fifth of food bank users are members of single-parent families and the majority of single-parent families are headed by a woman.
According to the Common Front for Social Justice, it is not surprising that many working poor continue to need food banks. More than 16% of users fall in this group (10% have a job and 6.4% receive Employment Insurance). The Common Front says that these statistics clearly show the need for an increase in the provincial minimum wage.
The bulk of citizens in need of food banks, 65.6 % of them, are those on social assistance.
The Common Front for Social Justice deplores the numbers appearing in Hunger Count 2011 and is proposing three recommendations: an immediate increase of the minimum wage to $10.00 an hour; an increase in basic social assistance rates to match the Atlantic provinces’ average; and an immediate implementation of a $50-Solidarity Food Supplement for all household units on social assistance.
The Common Front for Social Justice is one of the largest democratic and popular organizations in New Brunswick, with close to 75,000 group and individual members. The Common Front brings together individuals as well as local, regional and provincial organizations to work towards the eradication of poverty.