Food Banks Canada responds to the 2024 federal budget

Food Banks Canada is encouraged to see some positive steps forward in this year’s federal budget to address long-term systemic issues that should alleviate the root causes of poverty and food insecurity.

Specifically, we were encouraged to see a long overdue plan to spur the creation of more affordable housing through a new National Housing Plan, an investment in a National School Food Program, and a minimal investment toward the long-awaited Canada Disability Benefit — programs that Food Banks Canada has been advocating for years.

However, we are disappointed with the lack of any immediate supports to help people who are struggling to put food on the table today.

What we saw in this year’s budget are some missed opportunities by the federal government to do right by those most in need. While each of the three measures mentioned above should be applauded in principle, they fail to rise to the level of action needed to deal with the urgent realities of poverty in Canada right now.

The National Housing Plan — many of the measures included in the plan are vital long-term policies that we have called for many times over. This plan has the potential to have a significant impact in the future, something we are very encouraged to see. The government, however, still failed to introduce an immediate rental support for people who are struggling to pay for the high cost of housing today.

The National School Food Program — will help put food on the table while some children are at school and is welcomed. However, concerns remain about how this program will be rolled out and how effective it will be in the short and long term given the complexities ahead with its implementation.

The Disability Benefit — is far from adequate and is nowhere near representative of what is needed to lift people with disabilities out of poverty. Unfortunately, people will have to wait 15 more months to see any support.

Making matters worse, only those who are eligible for the Disability Tax Credit — a program known to be challenging to access and available to only a small portion of Canadians with a disability — will be eligible for the benefit.

With food bank use and food insecurity at record levels, along with widespread financial struggles, people across Canada are being challenged at levels never seen before.

With such a massive issue to deal with, we were hopeful to see proportionately massive steps taken on behalf of our federal government. Unfortunately, the budget has failed to rise to the urgency of this crisis and does not address the true realities of what living in poverty in Canada means today.

Moving forward, one thing is clear — people living on low incomes in Canada need immediate relief. While many announcements in this budget bring some long-term support, people are struggling right now.

That is why Food Banks Canada will continue to advocate for urgent relief for people trying to make ends meet today.

This includes advocating for an immediate expansion of the GST credit for low-income earners, also known as the Grocery and Essentials Benefit, as well as an expanded Canada Housing Benefit, which would help put much-needed financial supports into the hands of people struggling to put food on the table for their families.