Shining a light on those who are hungry

Stephen Dunbar-Edge and the 55 volunteers who spend their time at the Whitehorse Food Bank every month don't need Hunger Awareness Week. They are well aware of the problem. They see hunger every day.

Stephen Dunbar-Edge and the 55 volunteers who spend their time at the Whitehorse Food Bank every month don’t need Hunger Awareness Week.

They are well aware of the problem. They see hunger every day.

In the month of March a total of 571 households were given emergency food by the food bank. That’s 1,256 people, including 403 children younger than 18.

Today marks the end of Hunger Awareness Week, a national campaign spearheaded by Food Banks Canada.

It also happens to coincide with executive director Dunbar-Edge’s annual release of local statistics around who uses the Whitehorse Food Bank’s services.

“People tend to often make assumptions about the people that are coming here. These statistics throw any kind of preconceived notion about our clients out the window,” he said this week.

The hard data revealed a few significant things, Dunbar-Edge said.

First, 47 per cent of the people who use the food bank are living in a private rental. That means they’re not in social housing or band-owned homes, and they’re not living with friends or owning their own home.

People in social housing represent about 16 per cent of the client base.

“So that’s pretty significant and it might be a bit of an indicator of people not being able to make ends meet. Do I keep a roof over my head, or do I eat?” Dunbar-Edge said.

That number has increased about six per cent over last year.

The numbers show that 11 per cent of the people who use the food bank are employed.

“This is where their only source of income is employment. It could be anything from part time to multiple full-time jobs,” Dunbar-Edge said.

Overall use has increased seven per cent. Dunbar-Edge said that represents a stabilization. Numbers skyrocketed for the first few years after the food bank opened in 2009.

“Now I’m now going to see little bits of increases and little bits of decreases unless something major happens in the Yukon,” he said.

The food bank is for emergency situations, when people are in crisis, Dunbar-Edge said. The public perception of the same person getting food every day is not the reality.

Hampers can be picked up once a calendar month and contain about three days worth of food, he said.

“Even though our clients may have been registered here for three years, only 10 per cent of that client base comes to see me every month.”

What’s more likely are clients coming in for short periods of crisis. The bulk of the clients come six or seven times a year.

“People need to eat every day, so I don’t know that that’s going to change,” Dunbar-Edge said.

“But what I do know is that the people that are utilizing the food bank are treating it as an emergency food situation.”

As part of this week’s events, students from the local schools handed out green apples on the street.

The fruit is a symbol of the Green Apple Club. That’s a group of Yukoners who have agreed to donate money on a monthly basis.

Currently there are about 300 people who donate at least $10 a month.

Dunbar-Edge wants to get that number up to 500.

That would allow all of the organization’s monthly operating costs to be covered so that the focus could shift to expanding services, he said.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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