Food Banks Canada calls for systemic change to tackle food insecurity

Who: Food Banks Canada, with The Local Collective for strategy and creative; production by Scouts Honour (directed by Mark Zibert), with post-production by Nimeopere, Alter Ego, Tantrum, and Rajakovic Electric; media by M&K Media, and PR by SP Public Relations.

What: “Starve the Hunger,” an evocative new awareness campaign calling for systemic change to tackle the problem of food insecurity.

When & Where: The campaign is live now (just ahead of Thanksgiving) and will run until the Christmas holidays across TV, online video, cinema and out-of-home, using a combination of paid and donated media.

Why: While Food Banks Canada is best known for distributing donated food to those in urgent need of assistance, it also works to reduce the need for food banks in the first place.

According to Food Banks Canada, food insecurity already touches more than 5.8 million Canadians, and is a growing problem.

“Food insecurity is at an epidemic level in this country,” said Caroline Newton, Food Banks Canada’s chief communications officer. “Things weren’t great before COVID, and the effects of the pandemic, coupled with inflation and the rising cost of living, means we simply cannot tolerate the situation any longer.”

How: The campaign is anchored by a powerful two-minute film that depicts hunger as a voracious caterpillar eating ever-larger holes in the social fabric. It opens on a young girl drawing an apple, but with a ragged hole in the page.  Across a range of scenes, settings and characters, the holes get bigger and bigger, with a giant caterpillar eventually scaling an office tower.

“There’s this thing,” says the young narrator. “It seems small at first, like something you don’t really notice. Something we don’t really need to worry about. But it grows. And soon it’s impossible to ignore.”

Halfway through the spot, the tone changes from despair to hope. The caterpillar is replaced by butterflies, and the young narrator explains, “We know its weakness,” accompanied by scenes of people helping those in need in a variety of ways, and supers calling on viewers to donate food, time and money.

“We can defeat it,” says the voiceover, before the spot cuts back to an ominous image of a caterpillar emerging from a hole in an apple, followed by the tagline and website: StarveTheHunger.ca. “Food alone is not the answer to ending hunger in Canada,” says the landing page, which directs visitors to information on the policies that can make a difference and research on the issues.

The intent of the campaign is to connect with those people who may already be helping by dropping off canned goods, but who need to know the need for systemic change.

And we quote: “We needed a platform capable of engaging Canadians on an emotional level. ‘Starve the Hunger’ is designed to cause not only a reaction, but involvement. Telling this story in an emotional way allows Food Banks Canada to have a different conversation with Canadians.” — Matt Litzinger, founder and chief creative officer, The Local Collective

David Brown