There is currently a small committee in St. Albert that is looking into the issue of poverty and its impact on the residents of St. Albert.
The committee is investigating the possibility of conducting a poverty profile which, by definition, is a description of the character of poverty amongst a population. Information on the overall rates and traits of poverty are gathered using both qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection. The learnings from this endeavour would help us to identify the face of poverty in St. Albert and might provide us with an indication of service gaps in our city.
A component of the profile will involve collecting information related to food insecurities.
There are three levels of food insecurity. The first is referred to as being marginally insecure and that is when you are worried about being out of food before you manage to buy more. The second level is being moderately insecure, which is when you compromise on the quality or quantity of your portions. Skipping meals or going days without eating are both signs of being severely food insecure. Based on client self-reports we see all levels of food insecurity at the St. Albert Food Bank.
The impact of food insecurity is undeniable. We all know that eating nutritious food is best for kids – it helps them grow, learn and stay healthy. Poor nutrition can result in children who are tired, unfocused in school and often unwell. We have seen parents who forgo their own meals to ensure their kids are fed! We have heard from parents who said they feel like they have let their kids down because they may not be able to provide as nutritious a diet for them.
Underemployment, unemployment, lack of affordable/appropriate housing, missed educational opportunities, mental health issues and/or broken relationships can all result in a family or individual experiencing poverty. This experience can have a lasting impact on families. The daily struggle to make ends meet and to provide basic food and necessities for each member can appear to be an insurmountable mountain to climb.
An additional stressor for parents is the inability to afford to have their kids take part in extracurricular activities. They feel like they have failed when, in fact, they are sometimes working harder than many but can’t seem to get ahead.
There are many organizations in the city that have created and continue to maintain an outstanding social safety net, but that takes an enormous amount of work and collaboration as well as support from all levels of government. While there has been some movement in the support families receive from different levels of government, we haven’t reached the finish line yet.
We need to continue to advocate for our neighbours who are struggling in order to move the needle more. Joining us in the role of advocating are high school students who are members of their Social Justice committees. They are an impressive group who can help carry the torch. Please stay tuned.
Suzan Krecsy is the director of the St. Albert Food Bank.