The Banques Alimentaires du Québec released its annual Bilan-Faim report on October 25. It paints an alarming picture of growing food insecurity and demand for food aid across the province.
Locally, Moisson Sud-Ouest is reporting that 14,700 individuals are being helped to meet their food needs each month; this represents an increase of 29.5 per cent in demand over 2022 levels. These figures include 6,587 visits to emergency food programs per month – up from 4,976 monthly visits in 2022, when organizations were already struggling to accommodate demand.
The report also reveals that the number of people seeking food assistance is diversifying given the difficult economic context. The number of individuals who rely on food aid despite being employed has increased by around 20 per cent, while the number of people requiring these services who don’t have an income or social assistance has more than doubled. Over a third of those now relying on food aid across the region are children. These are regional statistics that include the Valley, and they are shocking.
With the Christmas season just around the corner, our local food banks and pantries need help. Several upcoming events, including the annual Rudolph Run and the Guignolée des medias, are organized locally to help raise funds. Another innovative program involving several local vegetable farms raises money for schools and distributes food to families in need through the Schools Take Root initiative. Schools sell organic vegetable baskets with an option for families to purchase “solidarity baskets,” where the food is donated to local food banks. So far this year, at least 20 per cent of all baskets sold have been donated, suggesting that communities are well aware of the increased need and are willing to pitch in. The food forest at École Arthur-Pigeon is also a step in the right direction to address food insecurity, by providing students with the tools to grow and process their own food.
Food insecurity often goes unnoticed, but as a community the Valley has always come together in times of need. We can all help by supporting these local initiatives in the coming weeks, and by donating what we can.