Identifying the socioeconomic characteristics of food bank users using a new food bank research platform
In Canada, 1.1 million households pay a monthly visit to one of more than 1800 food banks. Governments at all levels contribute to food banks either directly or through foregone tax revenues. Other sources of funding for food banks include local fund raising and gifts from allied charities such as the United Way. As support for food banks increase, governments and charitable organizations are demanding fact-based assessments of the characteristics of food bank users. How do food banks address poverty? How do food bank users fit into the poverty spectrum? What is the impact of low-income support programs, like the Canada Child Benefit (CCB), upon food bank usage and food insecurity? Prior research in this area has provided many insights into food bank users but has relied on ad hoc survey methods. Survey methods such as sampling and focus groups can identify the concerns of a population very well but may suffer from self-selection bias and small sample sizes. Better approaches to data collection would include a stratified sampling survey as used in the Canadian Census, longitudinal surveys, or the use of longitudinal administrative data.