Record numbers of people are working in Saskatchewan and weekly earnings are at an all-time high, but the number of people using food banks is also way up.
This year, more than 22,000 people will use food banks in the province, many for the first time. That is down 9% from a year ago, but the five-year trend is not as encouraging.
The numbers are contained in the 2013 National Hunger Count, which looks at food bank use across Canada.
From 2008 until this year, Manitoba saw the biggest increase with a 49% jump. Alberta was second with a 45% increase.
In Saskatchewan, the increase was 27%, slightly above the national average, but still high considering the booming economy.
Laurie O’Conner, the executive director of the Saskatoon Food Bank says the boom is partially to blame, hitting those on fixed incomes the hardest:
“People who are struggling to make ends meet, whether they are working, on a pension or a student, you know, we are still seeing those numbers remaining stubbornly high and that is concerning for sure.”
Nationally, about 11% of those who use food banks are Aboriginal. In Saskatchewan, the number is 57%. O’Conner says the numbers tell a disturbing story:
“That tells me a story that we are not doing our best to support people across the board as a community and as a province.”
Food Banks Canada has five recommendations aimed at addressing the chronic problem. Among them, long-term federal funding for affordable housing, increasing funding for job training from $500 million to $700 million dollars a year, financial support to help those stuck in low-paying jobs and changing social assistance to encourage people to find jobs rather than trapping them in poverty.