Many people never thought they would need help. Then the COVID-19 pandemic happened. With mass layoffs and underemployment, many individuals and families are struggling to make ends meet – having to choose between paying rent and eating. The number of people facing this choice has risen 30% since the beginning of the pandemic. Now one in seven Canadians live in food insecure households according to Statistics Canada. Before this global crisis, that number was one in 10.
“The pandemic’s impact on children, single mothers, newcomers, Indigenous and Black communities has been high. Many in these communities work in the hospitality sector, which has been particularly hard hit, says Kim Winchell, Senior Director, Strategic Initiatives at United Way British Columbia. “As the pandemic evolves, food insecurity continues to rise across our province.”
Prior to the pandemic, one in four children was going hungry. Now, it’s one in three. With the cost of feeding a family of four in 2021 sitting at almost $14,000*, many children, families and individuals need help.
United Way Food for BC launches
United Way is working to ensure all British Columbians have enough to eat, that’s why we’re launching our United Way Food for BC campaign. Funds raised will help provide healthy, nutritious and culturally appropriate food to those in need through our Food Hubs.
United Way Food Hubs provide groceries, food hampers, prepared meals, and supermarket gift cards to vulnerable people right in their neighbourhoods. Between March 2020 and March 2021, Food Hubs across the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley served almost 4 million meals and delivered almost half a million grocery hampers through 152 local sites.
Those 4 million meals were made possible through community donations and support. All it takes is $25 to buy 5 nutritious meals for a family, while $50 would supply them with a weekly grocery hamper. A gift of $200 covers weekly food delivery to local neighbourhoods.
Getting food to where it’s needed is a unique feature of United Way Food Hubs and United Way’s Food Security Initiative. That’s because providing nutritious food is only part of the solution.
Local food sites are a vital component of United Way Regional Community Food Hubs, an innovative approach to food security. The Regional Community Food Hub ecosystem is made up of non-profit partners, residents, businesses, all levels of government, the agricultural sector and other funders, working together to increase food security and reduce hunger in our communities.
Regional Community Food Hubs provide community members access to food, food literacy and wellness programming, together with wrap-around services such as mental health support, employment services, childcare and others. These hubs also offer volunteer and engagement opportunities for community members right in their neighbourhoods, strengthening connections within communities.
Building on the successful introduction of six Regional Community Food Hubs across the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are expanding our Food Security initiative across British Columbia to include more communities in Vancouver and area as well as to the Southern Interior, Central and Northern Vancouver Island, East Kootenays, Trail and District, and Thompson Nicola Cariboo.
“B.C. has Canada’s highest rate of working poor. People across the province were already facing hard choices getting enough food prior to the pandemic, now it’s even tougher. As an example, young people in Whistler were extremely impacted when Whistler-Blackcomb closed. Many of them are experiencing hunger for the first time and didn’t know where to turn,” Kim says. “Having a United Way Regional Community Food Hub in a city or neighbourhood means everyone in need in that community will have increased access to food.”
A healthy neighbourhood includes healthy neighbours – neighbours who don’t have to make the choice between buying food or paying rent.
To strengthen vital connections in your community, support United Way’s Food Appeal. Donate today.
* Harris, R. Food prices forecast to rise up to 5% In 2021. (2020, December 08)