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‘A bit of a concern’: Greater Vancouver Food Bank sees increase in senior use

A spike in the number of seniors utilizing the Greater Vancouver Food Bank suggests they’re the latest demographic to feel the impact of the high cost of living in the Vancouver area.

Greater Vancouver Food Bank CEO David Long said the food bank helps roughly 28,000 people a week, 35 per cent of whom were seniors during the month of August. That works out to about 9,800.

“They’re having a tough time making ends meet with a fixed income and pension,” said Long.

That pension is often outweighed by the high cost of living, he added.

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“It’s a mixture of all the different things, we know that the price of housing in Vancouver is expensive,” said Long.

B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie echoed Long and said it’s concerning that for many, a pension isn’t enough.

“A higher proportion of renters are seniors, and of course the rents are much higher now,” said Mackenzie.

More than likely, she said there’s other issues facing seniors.

“You could argue that the food bank is a bit of a canary in the coal mine, to tell us that ‘wait a minute, we’ve got a challenge here with our low income seniors in the Lower Mainland’ — I would say low and moderate income seniors — ‘because of the acute rental costs in the Lower Mainland.’

“What else do they need besides food that there’s no equivalent [to a food bank] to go to, so in other words they’re just going without?”

Mackenzie said the bottom 20 per cent of B.C. seniors live on an average of $17,000 per year.

“When you think about that and you think about the rents in Vancouver, and you think about the subsidy offered, which is good, but given the rents it’s not sufficient.”

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Mackenzie says if the cost of rent remains high, in the long run these numbers may no longer appear unusual.

According to Long, the Greater Vancouver Food Bank seniors represent the second largest group served by the charity.

The Greater Vancouver Food Bank offers services to residents from North Vancouver, Vancouver, Burnaby and New Westminster.