Food banks play an important role in supporting people living in poverty, but little is known about the characteristics of food-bank clients or how food-bank use is affected by government income supports. Who uses food banks and how often? How do food-bank users compare with the broader low-income population?
Canadian research has been unable to answer these questions due to a lack of data. In 2014, McMaster University and Hamilton Food Share – a network of major food banks in Hamilton, Ontario – joined forces to remedy this situation and improve the quality of food-bank data available to researchers, food-bank administrators and users, government decision-makers and not-for-profits.
On December 13 2021, we held a panel discussion on the preliminary research findings on food bank usage in Hamilton, the implications for government policy and the major issues facing local food banks in Canada. Our guests were Martin Dooley, professor emeritus at McMaster University; Joanne Santucci, CEO of Hamilton Food Share; Richard Matern, research director at Food Banks Canada; Laurie O’Connor, executive director of the Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Centre and Vishnal Khanna, Co-Founder of Sai Dham Food Bank.
The event was moderated by Colin Busby, research director of the Social Safety Net for Working-Age Adults research program at the IRPP.