Food Banks Canada released their national study, HungerCount 2013, this past month with data indicating that food banks are continuing to be used at a record high.

Currently, 750,000 people use food banks in Canada, with the number of people assisted each month higher than the population of New Brunswick.

In Peterborough, 7,724 individuals went to food banks in the month of March 2013. Of those, 50.2 percent were women, while 40.8 percent were children under the age of 18 years old, and 5.4 percent of food bank users were 65 or over.

Misconceptions around the use of food banks include that they are only used by unemployed persons. About 10.6 percent of the residents using food banks had employment income, and 5.3 percent were homeowners. Individuals living on the street represented only one percent of food bank users, and those living in shelters or group homes made up 2.1 percent.

Looking at at-risk groups, eight percent of individuals using food banks were aboriginal persons, while 30.5 percent had disability-related income assistance.

The number of people using food banks, despite having decreased since 2012, is still 20 percent higher than it was in 2008.

HungerCount 2013, in addition to its statistics and data, also provides policy recommendations to help reduce the number of people who have to rely on food banks. Such recommendations include increasing the availability of affordable housing so individuals would not have to choose between buying groceries and paying rent; increasing investments in education and training for persons at risk of failing in the job market to promote self-sufficiency; investment in local food solutions for Northern Canada to help Northern residents build the capacity to feed themselves; and revolutionizing social assistance to build in self-sufficiency so individuals are no longer trapped in poverty.

Looking at Canada overall, 80,000 Canadians are forced to ask for help from a food bank for the first time each month, while nearly 40,000 of those helped monthly are seniors with incomes that are too little to afford enough food. One-sixth of the Canadian households that were assisted by food banks have employment income, yet must still rely on food banks to get enough to eat.

“The inability to obtain enough food, when it is abundant all around us, is physically and psychologically scarring,” said Katharine Schmidt, executive director of Food Banks Canada. “It is simply unacceptable in a nation as prosperous as Canada. We are calling on the federal and provincial governments to make real investments in policies that will reduce the need for food banks.”

HungerCount started in 1989 and is the only annual national research study of food banks and other food programs in Canada.