Economic gloom hits food bank donations

Thu Oct 30, 2008 3:11pm EDT
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TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's food banks may have a harder time feeding the poor this winter as a deepening global economic crisis leads major companies to slash donations, the nation's food bank association said on Thursday.

Food donations from major firms such as Kraft, Campbell Soup and Procter & Gamble have dropped by about 25 percent over the past six months, said Katharine Schmidt, executive director of Food Banks Canada.

"We're very concerned about the economic climate, both in terms of the ability of major food companies to donate, but also how it might impact the need we're facing," she said. "Donations are already falling short of demand."

While big companies provide the bulk of Canada's food donations, individual giving has also dropped as economic gloom forces people to rein in spending, Schmidt said.

The food bank squeeze comes amid a similar decline in charitable donations south of the border, where Americans are being hit by a housing slump and rising unemployment.

Kraft Canada, which donates an average of 1 million pounds of food to the nation's food banks each year, said it could not confirm a decline in donations.

"We're committed to supporting efforts to feed the hungry in Canada," said Lynne Galia. "Our ability to donate changes based on many different internal factors in our business."

Officials at Campbell Soup and Procter & Gamble also said they were unable to confirm donations were slipping.

Food Banks Canada provides food for about 720,000 people across the country each month, Schmidt said.

Canada's poverty rate has been on the rise since the 1980s, rising about 3 percentage points to 12 percent, according to a report from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development released earlier this month.

(Reporting by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Peter Galloway)