Food Banks Canada has released their annual report, Hunger Counts, and New Brunswick has experienced once again an increase in the number of citizens having to rely on foods banks to survive. In 2008, 15,638 individuals were helped at food banks while this year, the number has increased to 19,524, an increase of of 24.8 per cent.
“As it was in the past, it is discouraging to see that 32 per cent of food bank users are children and close to half of them are women. The situation is getting worse because the percentage of households assisted for the first time went up,” says Linda McCaustlin, co-chair of the Common Front for Social Justice.
Common Front’s research shows that since the 2008 Economic Crisis, the provincial situation has deteriorated:
– Almost 50% of individuals in New Brunswick earn less than $25,000 per year;
– In 2011, the hourly wage of women was still 11.7% lower than that of men.
– Since the economic crisis of 2008, our province has:
o Lost 7,800 full time jobs;
o Seen a rise in poverty in urban regions;
o Witnessed an increase in its unemployment rate from 8.5% to 11%;
o Lost a significant amount of provincial revenue because of tax cuts;
o Seen increases in the price of licenses and permits;
o Witnessed a drop in the annual progression of the median average income of New Brunswickers which corresponds to a loss in buying power of $540 per individual.
“It is clear that we have experienced an increase of poverty because more and more citizens have to rely on food bank to survive,” says McCaustlin.
As in the past, food bank user categories include over 15% of individuals having a job or who are on Employment Insurance. We repeatedly see that close to two third of users (65.9%) are people on social assistance.
“Our province has one of the lowest rates of social assistance in the country so the impact of this situation can be seen in the growing use of food banks. We are, after Newfoundland-Labrador, the province where the primary source of income for those relying on food banks is social assistance,” continues McCaustlin.
The Common Front is asking the province to increase the basic rates for all social assistance recipients which has practically not changed since 2008. Moreover, the Common Front is asking the newly appointed Minister of Social Development to implement a Food Solidarity Program of $50 per household for those on social assistance.