Canada’s food-bank shelves have been running empty for 35 years. Yes, restock them, but don’t expect hunger to go away. Even Food Banks Canada says it will not.

Sadly, compassionate appeals to food donors allow the community, business and our politicians to believe that food charity is the answer to hunger. Nothing is further from the truth.

Food-bank usage underestimates the scale of the national crisis: four million food-insecure Canadians, of whom 60 per cent are working poor. Only one in four of the food-insecure use food banks and many who do remain hungry.

Poverty is migrating outward in Canada’s largest city, with an annual food-bank tally showing soaring need in Toronto’s inner suburbs such as Scarborough and Etobicoke.

In total, 896,900 people visited a food bank across Toronto in the year to March, a 1.4-per-cent increase from a year earlier and a level still 12 per cent higher than during the recession, according to the annual count by the Daily Bread Food Bank.

The geography of hunger is shifting. Demand at food banks is subsiding in the city core, down 16 per cent since 2008, while in the inner suburbs of North York, Scarborough and Etobicoke, demand has risen 45 per cent in the past seven years.

A while back I attended a webinar about food security – or the lack thereof – in Canada. It was hosted by a well-known researcher on the subject, Valerie Tarasuk. I serve on the Food System’s Roundtable Food Access working group and thought the information presented in the webinar made some interesting points about accessing food in Canada, which may help form conversations around how to address the issue of food insecurity in Waterloo Region.

Food security is a complicated concept that touches on, and is affected by every aspect of the food system, human health and beyond. Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.

An alarming new study that has London public health officials calling on the province to raise social assistance rates shows the average family of four in London is spending $56.03 more per month on groceries than it did only a year ago.

The hike — most dramatic in the produce and meat departments — is being felt in households across London, but it’s having the greatest effect on those already struggling to make ends meet.

Activist government is back in vogue.

Canada’s opposition parties understand this. That’s why Justin Trudeau’s Liberals are touting a plan that would see the federal government incur more than $20 billion in new debt to build public infrastructure.

It’s also why Tom Mulcair’s NDP is promising government-funded child care, an ambitious scheme that, if it works, would be the most important federal social program since medicare.

Neither pledge would have been out of place a few decades ago. Indeed, a few decades ago even Canada’s Conservatives were promising a national child-care program.

The health care costs associated with food insecurity are staggering. Dr. Valerie Tarasuk, well-known food insecurity researcher with the University of Toronto/PROOF project, will present the latest results of their research into the health care costs associated with food insecurity among working-aged adults in Ontario. The researchers documented a more than two-fold difference in health care costs among adults in severely food insecure households compared to those who were food secure.

The findings suggest that policy interventions to address food insecurity can be expected to offset considerable public expenditures in health care.

A Predictable Emergency is based on research The Stop conducted with graduate students from the University of Toronto in February 2015. We surveyed 211 people who use our Food Bank (14% of our total membership) to understand how much money they have to spend on food, and what they do once their three-day food hamper runs out.

The results speak to desperately low incomes and persistent food insecurity for people using food banks in Canada.