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Pet Awareness Hunger Day

With inflation, the rising cost of food, and challenging financial times across the nation, an unprecedented number of Canadians visited food banks in 2023. When pet owners face food insecurity, their pets often times do too. According to a recent nationwide survey commissioned by PetSmart Charities of Canada, the majority of Canadians (77%) agree that they would forgo their meals to ensure their pet has enough to eat if they were struggling with food costs.

So what do we see here in Tillsonburg at the Helping Hand Food Bank? "We know that circumstances change, but we believe everyone deserves the love of a pet, even when times are tough," said Dianne Clark, Coordinator of the food bank. "We're eager and excited to draw attention to this important issue through Pet Hunger Awareness Day because when families face food insecurity, their pets often do too."

In a recent study of more than 1,000 pet owners, conducted by PetSmart Charities and market research firm Dynata, nearly half (49%) reported that they meticulously calculate their pets’ expenses in order to maintain a budget. Nearly one-third (29%) said they worry about being able to feed their pets due to financial stress.

It’s our philosophy that having a pet should not be a privilege that’s only available to those with a certain amount of money. The love and care of a pet is valuable – no matter your income level.

The Dynata survey highlights the relationship between food insecurity and pet ownership, reporting that 17% of pet parents, regardless of income, have shared their human food with their animals to ensure they have a meal. And 12% said they’d visited the food bank for pet supplies. A full 59% reported that they’d prioritize their pets’ medical expenses over their own.

When you think about the statistic that about two-thirds of Canadian households have a dog or cat, if those households are having trouble putting food on the table, they’re also probably struggling to feed their pet.

At the Helping Hand Food Bank, we provide food for humans but also, we provide for animals. Unfortunately, we can only provide for both 3 days worth of food. We can only provide for pets through donations as we use the financial donations for purchase of human food. It is difficult for us when we run out of pet food and kitty litter. When we have stories such as the following, it breaks our hearts: A senior woman came to us for assistance and on the day, she came, she had just fed the last of the food she had available to her cats that morning, and she didn’t know what she was going to do for them that evening. The fact that the food bank also had cat food was a huge relief for her BUT we were able to assist her with her food insecurity as well.

Pet ownership has notable benefits beyond simply companionship. It’s been proven to decrease blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and feelings of loneliness, which can have severe impacts on mental health. It also encourages people to increase their levels of physical activity and provides opportunities to socialize. Pets are good for humans’ physical, emotional and mental health – the data very clearly supports that. Ultimately, we hope at the Helping Hand Food Bank that more people will understand that pets are important members of the family – and that food insecurity isn’t something that others should judge. People don’t ever acquire pets thinking they’re not going to be able to take care of them, but circumstances change. We all need a little help sometimes.

At this time of the year, when people are generous with Christmas food giving, we need to also encourage you to be generous with donating pet food. We are in great need of dry dog and cat food. Food suitable for large and small. BUT also needed desperately is kitty litter. We take all and divide it up to the pets and so a small amount can go a long way.

We look forward to how you are going to help us on Pet Awareness Hunger Day


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