News

Food bank sees major spike in people needing assistance

BC CTVAllison HurstReporter / Writer, CTV Vancouver

@AllisonM_Hurst

Published Friday, October 11, 2019 6:44PM PDT

The Greater Vancouver Food Bank is raising alarm bells after seeing a large increase in the number of people depending on the service.

“We have seen about a 24 per cent increase in usage of the food bank over the last year,” said Cynthia Boulter, the food bank’s chief development officer, during an interview at the Burnaby location.

She said adults depending on the food bank are reporting higher incomes than years past. But the most frequent visitors are seniors.

“In August we really saw quite a jump, a five per cent jump in seniors, so we’re up to 35 per cent,” said Boulter. “Seniors are feeling the pinch with cost of living going up, housing, and many on a fixed income.”

The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is about $2,100 a month. Some are renting but even if they own, they have property taxes, repairs and potentially strata payments just to keep a roof over their heads.

Many of our seniors are “struggling” said Isobel Mackenzie, the province’s seniors advocate. On top of housing costs, seniors have significant health concerns, and many lose their benefits when they retire.

Mackenzie told CTV News, “35 per cent fewer of people 65 and over have any program that will help them pay for their glasses, their hearing aids, their dental work.”

So where does the money come from to pay for those added medical bills? Often the food budget, said Boulter.

“Poverty is the root cause of food insecurity and in Vancouver a lack of access to housing along with all the other expenses is really at the heart of it,” she said.

Mackenzie said one way she’d like to see government help out would be with a program that covers things like dental care, hearing aids and glasses.

“We don’t have any provincial or federal program that touches on that,” she said.

The GVFB has 14 locations in Vancouver, North Vancouver, New Westminster and Burnaby.

“We have a permanent community food hub here now,” she said speaking at the Burnaby location. While the other ones, “it’s kind of like setting up 13 weddings a week. We go into a gym, a neighbourhood house, set up the tables, bring in the food.”