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Food bank use on rise: report


OTTAWA—Food Banks Canada is using its annual report on the number of people using food banks in the country to push anew for the federal and provincial governments to do away with the social assistance programs.

The group wants to see the existing bureaucracies that oversee social benefits, such as disability payments, instead funnel all the savings into tax measures that would put more money into the hands of low-income earners.

The group’s executive director says this would create a basic, minimum income for those living near or below the poverty line—and likely save money for governments.

Katharine Schmidt said the move also could reduce the number of people using food banks, which this year crept up by about one percent to more than 852,000 from the almost 842,000 recorded last year.

“It certainly wouldn’t be an easy thing to do,” she conceded.

“But if we were to dismantle the existing bureaucracies and put in place a basic income that was administered through the tax system, we really believe that it would reduce the overall cost to governments,” Schmidt stressed.

“At the end of the day, we would be a better off Canada than we are today.”

Food Banks Canada has seen two other regular requests in its annual “HungerCount” report become part of the Liberal government’s campaign platform: to bring down the cost of food in the territories and money to build more affordable housing across the country.

The Liberals pledged $40 million over four years to “Nutrition North” to help lower food prices in the north.

They also promised an affordable housing plan that includes a promise to eliminate the GST on all new rental builds in the country while giving up to $125 million a year to landlords renovating aging rental units.

The report found that this past March, 852,137 people visited a food bank—up just over one percent from the 841,191 recorded in 2014 but still below the 10-year high of 872,379 recorded in 2013.

The report this year found that almost 36 percent or users, or about 305,000, were children.

That’s equivalent to about 4,260 yellow school buses filled to their 72-seat capacity.

Schmidt said food banks also have seen more seniors on pensions and people in receipt of disability benefits.

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