It’s hard to believe hunger has a place in Canada. This is a country that ranks 11th out of 186 countries on the UN Human Development Index, which measures standards of living.

That’s why the annual HungerCount report, which found that a record number of Canadians are using food banks, is so disturbing.

And it seems it’s only getting worse: The study from Food Banks Canada found that 841,000 people visited a food bank during March of this year, a 1-per-cent increase from the previous year. And that figure is up 25 per cent from 2008 when the most recent economic downturn hit. Nor are numbers slowing: 87,533 people turned to food banks in March for the first time this year.

Let’s see if we can make sense of this.

UNICEF has just given Canada a passing grade, mind you barely a pass, when it comes to the fight against child poverty. In a report released today it claims that 21% of Canadian children live in poverty, nothing to brag about, but at least this is lower than the 23% who were poor just before the recession started in 2008.

Interestingly, Statistics Canada also says child poverty is down, but that only 8.5% of kids are poor. However, at the same time it says child poverty is up, reaching almost 14%. And finally, if this is not confusing enough, it says that, yes, 14% of kids are poor, but this is down since 2008.

Up or down? One-in-five kids poor, or one-in-seven, or maybe even as few as only one-in-eleven?

Kelly is a single mother, one among the hundreds of thousands of working-poor Canadians who simply can’t afford to put nutritious food on their tables.

The Nova Scotia mother of eight children – four of whom are at home and range in age from three to 11 – earns $11 an hour, which is 60 cents above the province’s minimum wage, at her 33-hour-a-week job at a daycare in her community.

“It is hard to keep things going,” she says. “I don’t think you know stress [like this]. I’ll dish out their food and … when they are done eating, if there is enough food left over, then okay, I get supper. If not then it might be picking off of their plate, but that’s how it’s always been with me since I’ve had kids. I’d rather see the kids eat, and me go without than for them to still be hungry.”

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October 18, 2014

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Chew on this

Oxford County residents were handed healthy snacks at grocery stores Friday as part of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

Community Outreach Engager with Compass Robin House says it was part of their ChewOnThis! campaign.

“We are here simply today to hand out apples with a fridge magnet and a postcard that people can mail into the government, to our Prime Minister and let them know that we, as a community, want a poverty plan.”

London’s anti-poverty advocates envision a future when there isn’t a food bank and those in need get their food from grocery stores.

To help make that vision a reality, they’re calling on business expertise for help, Jane Roy, co-executive director of the London Food Bank, said Thursday.

“Is there a creative way for folks who need cheaper food to get it where we all get it? We need people who think outside the box.”

Being disabled is increasingly a trigger for poverty and hunger, according to a new report profiling food bank clients across the GTA.

The percentage of disabled people lining up at food banks has almost doubled since 2005, the Daily Bread Food Bank’s Who’s Hungry report states.

Disability beneficiaries receive so little money from Ontario’s social welfare programs they are forced to live in poverty, Daily Bread executive director Gail Nyberg said.

The steadily increasing number of Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) recipients relying on food banks is a concerning trend, she said.

My daughter just can’t believe the poverty she has seen this past week.

I was a bit surprised at this news, when she reached us by phone. Here, after all, is a young woman who has traveled to Ecuador, Chile, Guatemala and Bangladesh, and completed her university degree.

She had just left for a six-month stint, along with 17 other young adults from Nicaragua and Canada, to live with host families, learn each other’s customs and work with social agencies.

But my daughter wasn’t on the line from somewhere in the Global South. She was calling from Hamilton, Ont.