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Does food bank usage mean that our financial system is broken?

Does food bank usage mean that our financial system is broken?

November 10, 2023

The demand for food banks has increased sharply and that underlies the significant financial challenges many Canadians face, writes Peter Watson.

More families find it difficult to make ends meet. It seems everything is more expensive.

Homeownership costs have risen largely because of the increase in the cost of borrowing and therefore mortgage payments are higher. Rental rates have also increased.

A recent report from Food Banks Canada stated the use of food banks rose to the highest level since that information started to be recorded in 1989. Almost 1.5 million people use food banks which is a 15 per cent increase from last year. More than 35 per cent higher than in 2019.

Unfortunately, financial hardship is part of life. For example, if the stock value in your portfolio suddenly fell 20 per cent many would consider that a hardship. The same can be said if you lost your job.

A financial loss or the loss of income would be very significant. But compare those financial stresses to that of not being able to feed yourself or your family. For many, that is a whole new higher-level of financial pain.

There could be many reasons why someone is not able to afford purchasing food. Older people could be retired without enough retirement income. Students could be struggling with the cost of postsecondary education and housing.

Some might be fully employed but because of low wages they too find themselves unable to cover all expenses. Others might have been financially secure, however, for whatever reason their circumstances suddenly changed.

Our challenge as individuals and as a country is to have the opportunity for all Canadians to maintain their desired lifestyle based on their ability and effort.

The increased reliance on food banks should be viewed as a cry for help.

Do we need to change the way things are done?

Peter Watson, of Watson Investments MBA, CFP®, R.F.P., CIM®, FCSI offers a weekly financial planning column, Dollars & Sense. He can be contacted through