We all know there are people struggling to put food on the table in the North Okanagan, but the magnitude off the problem will still catch most off guard.
Between 2008 and 2011, use at the Salvation Army food bank in Vernon skyrocketed 87 per cent. While statistics have stabilized in the past year, there are still 1,100 people dependent on the agency, with 30 per cent of them being under the age of 18.
And not everyone is on social assistance. Eleven per cent of the households receiving help are living on income from current or recent employment.
It’s likely food banks in Enderby, Armstrong, Lumby and Lake Country are also facing the same challenges.
The latest HungerCount study coincides with municipal elections throughout the North Okanagan and the timing couldn’t be better.
Voters should be asking the candidates what they will do to help improve conditions for all residents, but particularly those living below the poverty line. What actions will they take to expand the availability of affordable housing? Do they have a strategy to attract investors who will create jobs that will sustain a family? Will the new mayors and councillors lobby the federal and provincial government to fund programs that support families and individuals looking to turn their lives around?
Some candidates will want to push social issues on to senior government, but they can’t be ignored at the local level. There are links between extreme poverty and crime, substance abuse and public safety.
As the Nov. 19 elections draw near, make the needs of your neighbours, friends and family an issue.