29 December 2016

Fact-checking CBC and Food Banks #nlpoli

The headline on the CBC story just felt wrong.

The kind of over-the-top exaggeration that just sounds biased.



"Food bank need jumps in N.L., ending years-long trend."

The first sentence was the same:  "After six years of near-consistent decline, food bank usage has jumped in Newfoundland and Labrador."

The second sentence, though, wasn't quite so emphatic.  Now there was just a change from 2015 to 2016 in the proportion of people in the province using food banks.

Time to check the data:  in this case, a report from the national food banks association. You cand find the same data and more besides in a report from the group Canada without Poverty.

Sure enough,  26,366 people in Newfoundland and Labrador used food banks by the report date in 2016, compared to just over 25,000 in 2015.

But in 2014,  26,617 people went to a foodbank, up from 26,412 in 2014.

So "jump" and "near-consistent decline"?


Not even close to describing what actually happened.

From 2008 to 2016,  an average of 27,577 people have used food banks in Newfoundland and Labrador.  The number peaked in 2010, declined over the next two years and then has been generally moving up or down by a few hundred each year ever since.  There are actually fewer people using food banks today than there were four years ago.

The number of people using food banks in 2003 was more than 31,000.

And, through the eight year period covered by the data in this year's food bank usage report, Newfoundland and Labrador still tops the country.

There's the angle that would have been more interesting to explore in CBC's story.

For one thing, it contradicts the idea that there is some kind of anti-poverty miracle going on around here.

It would also be true, which is more than you can say for the click-baity Trump-tweety truthiness of the headline and lede on the CBC story as it is.