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2023 has not been a normal year. Not in the wider world, and not in the world of Canadian food insecurity. This year, almost 7 million Canadians went hungry — up from 4.4 million in 2019. Across the country, food bank lines are stretching longer and longer (see images above).

So these days, many of us steel ourselves before opening the newspaper (or a mailer from Mazon). 

Typically, high employment rates mean reduced food bank use — it’s just common sense. But despite low national unemployment, food banks have reported record-breaking demand three years in a row.  Stable job markets have proved no match for rising costs and stagnant wages, and increasing numbers of working people now find themselves using food banks.

Our hearts sink to know 40% of people accessing food banks in 2023 did so for the very first time. 

But our Jewish tradition gives us a path forward. To paraphrase Rabbi David Hartman, when we take concrete steps to remedy injustice amidst impossible circumstances, we are fulfilling a mitzvah central to our Jewish ethic: The Chanukah lamp burned for eight nights because of those who were prepared to let it burn for only one night.

Faced with so many overlapping crises and dispiriting statistics, our individual Tzedakah can feel futile. But, as our sages taught, our obligation to help is not diminished by seemingly insurmountable odds: “We are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are we free to desist from it.” (Pirkei Avot, 2:21)

But why? Why is each step important, no matter how small or large?

Because, for a person who’s hungry today, every meal counts. Every bite. Each day that a child goes to school with a full belly is a step closer to a brighter future.

Today, even as the state of hunger is at its darkest, hope is on the horizon thanks to a groundswell of ambitious federal legislation. Canada’s new Disability Benefit, which could launch as soon as 2024, has the potential to lift almost 1.5M people out of food insecurity and poverty. The same is true for the emerging consensus on the need for a national school food program, and the push for universal childcare.

But, while they wait for these programs, people across Canada are struggling.

That’s why, with the Jewish community at their backs, Mazon’s grassroots network of 284 partner programs are working tirelessly to feed people in need. In more than 100 cities and towns, people who have never met a Jewish person know that, in their most desperate moment, the Jewish community is in their corner.

So when things seem dark, light your candles — and know that your gifts this season will shine a light for those in need.

We are grateful for your ongoing support during these challenging times, and humbled that fighting hunger remains among our community’s highest priorities. 

Wishing you a Chanukah full of love and light,

Izzy Waxman

Executive Director

Mazon Canada


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