Food Bank Canada has released the 2012 Hunger Count.
The Williams Lake food bank was not surprised by its content.
Food bank use in B.C. has increased by 6.6 per cent — much higher than the average rise of 2.4 per cent across the country.
The report shows that 11.4 per cent who accessed services at B.C. food banks between 2011 and 2012 are employed.
An increasing number of employed people can no longer feed their families.
The reason, the report suggests, is that 18 per cent of employed Canadians — almost one in five — earn less than $17,000 a year.
In Williams Lake we see more and more individuals who are holding down two, at times even three, part time jobs; and still cannot make ends meet.
Canadian food bank usage is up 31 per cent since the start of the 2008 recession. Port Moody and Port Coquitlam has reported a 59-per-cent increase in the last four years.
Usage of the Williams Lake Food Bank is up a staggering 1,000 per cent since the beginning of 2008.
The cost of housing, utilities, clothing, and food has increased steadily over the past four years.
Minimum wage increased, however, full-time jobs are scarce, especially for the unskilled labour force.
The living wage for Williams Lake has been calculated at $18 per hour (more than $35,000 annually).
Sixty per cent of the Williams Lake food bank clientele are singles.
A single person living on social assistance has to make ends meet on $3.80 an hour or $7,560 annually and rent in town absorbs 55-75 per cent of these funds.
A single person living on provincial disability has approximately $900 a month, the majority of clients utilize over 60 per cent of their income on rent.
The Williams Lake food bank in the past four years has extended its service area to include outlying communities where no food bank exists.
Donations are also being received from all around the Cariboo.
In 2007, access to food was limited to four times a year.
Today the most needy families can access once a week and receive staple goods, fruit and vegetables, snacks, and personal care and cleaning supplies.
Each hamper is designed to last two or three days.
In 2011, the provincial average cost of the nutritious food basket for a family of four was $868 per month.
Those earning minimum wage, receiving income assistance, or facing other challenges (high rents, child care, high transportation costs) struggle to find ways to purchase food as well as meet their other basic needs.
The Williams Lake Food Bank assesses client’s income and basic living expenses to determine “household” funds available for monthly groceries.
Individuals with less than $200, or families with less than $500 for their grocery budget may access food bank as often as once a week.
Entertainment and clothing expenses are not calculated when determining eligibility. The food bank also issues clothing vouchers when need is determined.
This year, the Williams Lake Salvation Army food bank had to start purchasing canned meats, pork and beans, pasta and pasta sauce as early as August.
The Christmas Food Drives fill the shelves and provide hampers to needy families. Donations are appreciated throughout the year, without them we cannot adequately meet the needs of our community.