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A Lot Of Canadians With Post-Secondary Degrees Are Hitting Up the Food Bank

The trend is linked to unemployment.

Even people with PhDs are using the food bank. Photo via Flickr user Phillip Stewart

Having a college or university degree won't necessarily stop you from being broke and hungry, according to a new report.

The Ottawa Hunger Report, released Wednesday, found that found that 41,540 Ottawans are using the city's food bank monthly—and 26 percent of them are people with trade accreditation, college diplomas, bachelor's degrees, and even masters or PhDs.

The report includes anonymous statements from food bank users including people who have jobs but still can't make ends meet. "Some weeks, especially in the winter, I have to choose between paying for heat in my apartment and buying groceries," wrote one man who said he has a good but low paying job. "Then when I see that one of my kids is growing out of their shoes, I really start to panic." Sixty-five percent of clients on some form of social assistance.


The report also highlighted university students balancing school, part-time jobs, and living expenses as a group that's likely to be hungry.

But the trend of degree-toting food bank clients isn't limited to Ottawa.

Richard Matern, director of research and communication for Daily Bread, a Toronto-based network of food banks, told VICE 36 percent of the organization's clients have college and university degrees. That's up from 22 percent a decade ago.

"They're having a more difficult time getting a foothold in the job market or re-entering the job market," he said.

Daily Bread's criteria for accepting new clients is pretty simple: they just have to be hungry. Increasingly, he said, those clients are young adults living at home. Youth unemployment or precarious work is another factor.

"They might be earning more than minimum wage but the hours they work are not enough," he said, adding that people also turn to the food banks when a contract ends.

But Matern said due to stigma and other barriers, a lot of people don't turn to the food bank. Based on community health surveys, he said Daily Bread is serving half of Torontonians who are considered "food insecure."

Earlier in the week, Dalhousie University released Canada's Food Price Report which predicted produce will be more expensive next year, potentially resulting in families paying $420 more in groceries.

Matern said he expects that will lead to more people relying on food banks, as it did in 2016.

"Many clients were saying they had to either come to us for the first time or they had to come to us more frequently," he said.

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