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Number of people using food banks in Canada's far north on the rise

The annual Food Banks Canada Hunger Count report says the number of people using food banks in Canada's North almost doubled in the past four years.

It says that 2,316 people used food banks across the North in March 2012, up from 1,340 people in March 2008.

"Considering the difficulty in maintaining food banks in the isolated and remote communities that we have, that speaks volumes as to the more and more people who are using those services," said Western Arctic Member of Parliament Dennis Bevington.

"What we probably need to organize as well is a supply of food from prosperous communities with larger food banks that are willing to share with some of these communities."

According to the report, aboriginal people, single parent families and people living on social assistance use food banks the most.

In Canada's northwestern Yukon territory, the Food Bank in the capital city of Whitehorse is serving a record number of people.

"The big significant things we saw were the number of new clients who were registering with us on average," said Stephen Dunbar-Edge, executive director of the Whitehorse Food Bank.

"On average we were registering about 35 new clients a month. Now a client represents the main head of the household, so that actually probably represents about a hundred people."

Dunbar-Edge said the other big difference is the number of working poor using the Whitehorse Food Bank has doubled. The Whitehorse Food Bank estimates it distributed $500,000 worth of food last year.

However the report also says food bank use is not an accurate picture of hunger in the North as few communities have food banks due to a lack of resources. It recommends investment in school breakfast programs and more funding for community infrastructure such as community freezers.

his story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.