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Vancouver food banks helping overcome food insecurity

Person placing a cardboard box with grocery items into a vehicle's trunk

Do you have to resort to inexpensive, low-nutrient food to stick to your weekly food budget? Do you have to skip meals to make ends meet?

If you answered yes to these questions, you could be “food insecure.” Food insecurity is a term that refers to people who cannot buy enough healthy food to sustain themselves and, as a result, must make sacrifices.

Food insecurity, which exists on a scale of mild to severe, affects over one in 10 households in British Columbia and one in eight households in Canada.

The lack of reliable access to food is a health threat most often experienced in households with children, especially single-parent households. However, other vulnerable demographics & susceptible to food insecurity include recent immigrants, Indigenous communities, seniors, the homeless, drug users and people with disabilities.

Having inadequate access to basic needs, like food, can harm a person’s physical and mental health in dramatic ways. Being deprived of food and essential nutrients can lead to increased risk of chronic diseases, greater difficulty managing and recovering from sickness and diseases, increased stress and the likelihood of depression and social isolation. Food insecurity can also cause irreversible damage to the development of young children.

While food insecurity has always been a serious issue, the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified its ramifications, including increased financial pressures due to unemployment, food shortages, higher costs of living, rising prices and inflation.

It affects many households and families across BC and Canada, and it is important to recognize food insecurity as an issue that needs advocacy and support systems for those struggling to access this basic need.

Food security is defined as the physical availability of food (supply of food), having economic and physical access to food, food utilization (the ability to cook and properly store food) and the stability of these three aspects over time.

The Greater Vancouver Food Bank (GVFB) is one of the resources available to households facing food insecurity. The GVFB provides healthy food to those in need and offers assistance to approximately 9,000 individuals monthly at locations across Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster and the North Shore.

The GVFB was initially set up in 1983 as a temporary relief to the hunger crisis; however, the need for food security continues, and the food bank has grown significantly since then.

Today, the GVFB also provides and distributes food to 112 community agencies that offer hot meals and snack programs across local neighbourhoods. Most of the food offered by the GVFB requires some form of preparation, but ready-to-eat meals and snacks are available through other community agencies.

Individuals interested in receiving food or support through the GVFB can call 604-876-3601 to set up an appointment to register as a client. Students who register as GVFB clients can receive healthy food weekly, with more than half of it being fresh, and full of protein.

The GVFB is also always accepting donations and support.

To learn more about the Greater Vancouver Food Bank, and the community agency partners that also provide food their communities every week, visit foodbank.bc.ca.

Published on Nov. 19, 2021.