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Alf Judd, Director of Operations, Georgina Community Food Pantry, Sutton, Ontario

Pauline Apperly, Director, Our Town Food bank, Tottenham, Ontario

Teresa Porter, Volunteer, LAMP Community Lunch Program, Newmarket, Ontario
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Latest reports

January 14, 2015

Times Colonist - Trevor Hancock - University of Victoria

Times Colonist logoB.C. should guarantee right to food security

Food is not only a necessity, it is a right under the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and several other international conventions that Canada has signed. Yet since the first food bank in B.C. opened more than 30 years ago, they have become a permanent fixture. Which means that hunger and malnutrition have become accepted as a permanent feature of Canadian society and we have established an institutionalized charitable response.

The UN's Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, in his 2013 report on Canada to the UN Human Rights Council, noted that while "Canada has a duty to respect, protect and fulfil the right to food ... Canada does not currently afford constitutional or legal protection of the right to food." In such a rich country and province, this is embarrassing.

January 17, 2015

Times Colonist - Graham Riches - University of British Columbia

Times Colonist logoAnswer to hunger is to raise incomes

I wish Trevor Hancock had gone one step further.

While the answer to hunger and food insecurity might appear to be food, it is not. It is a matter of income poverty and the need for adequate wages and welfare benefits.

The 2005 B.C. provincial health officer's annual report made this point, stating that the inability "to afford nutritious food in B.C. includes higher costs of a basic 'market basket' of items, higher housing costs, inadequate social assistance rates, increased levels of homelessness and a minimum wage level that can result in even full-time workers ... falling below the federal low-income cut-off." This analysis reflects federal and international data.

December 26, 2014

The Hamilton Spectator - Howard Elliott - Editorial

The Hamilton Spectator MastheadInstead of battling food insecurity, let's fix it

Food insecurity is a useful term in many ways. It refers to people and situations where an adequate supply of decent food is absent, or where it may be available one day without the knowledge that it will be available the next day, week or month.

But while it is useful, it is also inadequate. It doesn't give an accurate sense of the visceral situation for people who have to decide whether to pay bills or buy food. Or people who are compelled to serve their kids pasta with ketchup instead of sauce. Many of us have known lean times. Not so many know what it's like to be consistently hungry due to our life circumstance.

December 22, 2014

Huffington Post Canada - Joe Gunn - Citizens for Public Justice

Jar holding coinsWhy Do Charities Ask for Coins Instead of Change?

At Christmas time, Canadians give like at no other time of year. That's likely why your mailbox is filled with begging letters from needy charities, the malls are filled with bell-ringing Santas asking for your coins -- and you might even get asked to donate again at the check-out counter.

What I don't see enough of at Hanukkah, Christmas, or any other time of year, however, are charities soliciting people to keep their coins, and instead offer real "change."

Because charities just can't keep up with the demand for their services. And if we awaken to the reality of this situation, maybe we'll also accept the fact that charity alone is never going to solve the structural problems that are woven into our communities.

December 19, 2014

Upstream - Rachel Engler-Stringer - University of Saskatchewan

Worker unpacking boxesAn Upstream Take on Food Bank Giving ...

Here's what we know about the situation of food insecurity in Canada. According to the most recent national data, 12.6% of Canadians or 2.8 million adults and 1.6 million children experience some degree of food insecurity (and this number is much higher in Northern communities). Food insecurity was significantly higher in 2012 than it was in 2008. Although an under-representation of the problem, we often look to food bank usage as a sign of growing food insecurity. The 2014 HungerCount report, published by Food Banks Canada, found that 841,191 people use a food bank monthly, which is 25% higher than in 2008.

This is an important problem with long term health and mental health consequences, and I know that food insecurity to this degree is both unacceptable and totally preventable. My work and the way I live my life has allowed me to see up close the consequences of food insecurity, and the immense effort parents living in poverty go to in order to try to make ends meet for their family.

December 18, 2014

Oceanside Star - Brian Wilford

Graham RichesWhy do we need food banks?

Graham Riches was teaching at the University of Regina in 1983 when the province opened its first food bank.

"I was curious because I had no idea what a food bank was," he recalls. "They told me and I thought: Well, that's odd in the bread basket of the world and in a country with a well-developed social safety net."

Riches, retired in Qualicum Beach as Professor Emeritus and former director of the School of Social Work at the University of British Columbia, is one of the world's foremost experts on hunger and the right to food.

December 18, 2014

The Hamilton Spectator - Peter Graefe - McMaster University

Peter GraefeWynne has tools to take a bite out of hunger

As Christmas approaches, food drives are popping up everywhere. One cannot help but be touched by the sense of solidarity and justice behind these efforts, which respond to a real crisis of hunger in our community. But what if they are the wrong tool for the job?

Food banks were created in the 1980s as an emergency response to hunger. By 2014 they are a permanent fixture, a parallel food system to the grocery store. Food is gathered at multiple locations, shipped, sorted, stocked and distributed. Countless paid and volunteer hours are devoted to this work, as well as work interviewing clients at intake, applying for funding and reporting on opportunities.

December 15, 2014

The Guardian - Jenni Zelin - P.E.I. Food Security Network

Charity no replacement for economic, social justice

As a family physician in Charlottetown, I have seen the effects of poverty and food insecurity on my patients, in growing numbers and severity. Patients often have to choose between paying for medications or food. Sometimes they cannot afford to attend medical appointments because of the costs of transportation, or inability to miss a day's work. My work is compromised when I am unable to offer the most basic services to protect health and treat disease due to my patients' financial constraints.

But back to the Turkey Drive. How does this outpouring of seasonal generosity affect food insecurity and the health of Islanders? It doesn't. It is a holiday tradition that has turned charity into necessity, and has become an entrenched need, rather than the emergency resource it was intended to be.

December 13, 2014

The Hamilton Spectator - Deirdre Pike

Text: Workers could pay their employees a living wage so they could afford the feed they need.Sounds of the season I'd like to mute

Why are we continuing to put so much effort into filling up food banks instead of working to close them? I know it doesn't seem possible in this current economic climate with Ontario continuing to lose full-time jobs, but I believe we have to entertain the notion.

How, you might ask, could we possibly close them when so many people in our communities rely on them?

Well, as Put Food in the Budget (PFIB) reminds us in their latest discussion paper, "We Need to Talk - Who banks on food banks?," one way would be for the Ontario government to set social assistance and minimum wage rates high enough so that people could afford their own food.

December 13, 2014

The Catholic Register - Michael Swan - Associate Editor

Susan Mumma, left, of Hamilton Organizing for Poverty EliminationFood banks only put dent in poverty alleviation

The long hours thousands upon thousands of volunteers spend repacking food and stocking shelves in their parish food banks aren't solving the problem of hunger, claims a union-and-Church-backed campaign demanding governments raise social assistance and minimum wage rates.

"If people at the church think they're going to end poverty by volunteering at the food bank, they're not," said Put Food In The Budget provincial organizer Mike Balkwill. "If they think they're alleviating poverty, they're maybe alleviating a very small part of it."

December 12, 2014

The Telegram (St. John's) - James McLeod - Political reporter

Donation boxFood drives treat the symptom, not the problem: poverty advocate

The City of St. John's collected about 125,000 pounds in a recent door-to-door food drive and, on Friday morning, Twitter was awash with postings about citizens and organizations dropping off turkeys at the CBC.

But Dan Meades, provincial co-ordinator of the Transition House Association of N.L. and an anti-poverty advocate, wishes the focus was a little bit broader than what's on the shelves at the food bank.

December 11, 2014

Rabble - Cathy Crowe's Blog

Cathy CroweSocks are not enough: Social justice lies upstream from charity

There is a parable called Upstream Downstream that has guided me in my work as a street nurse. It's about visiting health care workers in a developing country. Standing by a riverbed they suddenly see bodies floating down the river. Frantically, they start pulling the bodies out and begin resuscitation. When they look up they see a continual flow of bodies down the river. They call for help and keep pulling the bodies onto the riverbank and apply CPR. Finally, one of them asks: "Who or what is upstream pushing the bodies into the river?"

December 6, 2014

The Star - Readers' letters

Daily Bread truckFood banks are not enough

Most Canadians are horrified by the idea that there are others in this wealthy country who are hungry. Holiday food drives give us easy opportunities to imagine that we doing something about this problem.

Undoubtedly, food banks allow some hungry Canadians to be somewhat less hungry. But research shows that the majority of hungry Canadians never go to a food bank - and even those that do so are still hungry. This doesn't mean we need to donate more food to food banks. It means that we need to tackle the underlying problem, poverty.

Elaine Power

December 5, 2014

The Independent - Maura Hanrahan - Memorial University

Maura HanrahanTalking Turkeys

Today is the day CBC Radio goes off the air - at least in my house. Today I heard the first plug for the annual CBC Turkey Drive. And there will be hundreds of these plugs in the days leading up to Christmas. I don't want to hear them and I won't be donating a turkey.

To put it bluntly, the CBC Turkey Drive should not exist.

I'm not being a curmudgeon or a Scrooge. I very much want everyone to have a Christmas (or Hanukkah) dinner they'll enjoy. But holding an annual food drive is way outside the mandate of the national broadcaster. And a more important point is that food banks are an extremely problematic response to hunger in our communities.

December 4, 2014

Times-Colonist (Victoria) - Peggy Wilmot - Comment

Food banks a Band-Aid on a gaping wound

Here we go again. Respected institutions such as the CBC and the Times Colonist are urging us to support our local food banks, and thus we loyal listeners and readers risk sliding into the belief that food banks are a good thing.

Yes, it is a good thing when we are able to help our fellow human beings, but it is not a good thing when we continue to put Band-Aids on what is a gaping wound of inequality.

Today's soup kitchens and food banks were created in the early 1980s to address food insecurity caused by the recession at the time. The original purpose of these services was as a temporary stopgap, but 30 years later, shouldn't we be questioning the length of the "emergency"?

December 1, 2014

Put Food in the Budget - Simon Robinson

Foodbank donation infographicWho banks on food banks in Canada

This Discussion Paper from the Put Food in the Budget campaign seeks to stimulate a public discussion about why we still have food banks. We provide basic information about
• the amount of food distributed to those who receive food from a food bank
• the dollar value of the food that is distributed
• how much money a person needs every month to buy nutritious food
• how much food is provided by 12 high-profile corporate campaign

November 27, 2014

Toronto Star - Joe Fiorito - Columnist

Governor General David JohnstonDare to give me a break

... these days, charity is institutionalized; if you think it isn't, then drop by your local food bank and ask when it started, and how many people it serves.

We have now reached a point, thanks to the Harper brand of Thatcherism, where tax is a dirty word; thus, we have left the care of the hungry and the homeless to organized charities, and also to the churches.

November 17, 2014

Toronto Star - Urban Issues - Christopher Hume

Toronto children need more prosperity, not more charity

Toronto, the richest city in Canada, is also one of the poorest. Newly compiled figures tell us that fully 29 per cent of children in this city live in poverty.

The Hidden Epidemic: A Report on Child and Family Poverty in Toronto, released last week by the Alliance for a Poverty-Free Toronto, calls the figures "shameful." Even worse, after dropping from 32 per cent a decade ago to 27 per cent in 2010, the numbers are rising again.

November 17, 2014 - Rathika Sitsabaiesan

Rathika SitsabaiesanChild Poverty - Private Members' Business

Moved: That, in the opinion of the House, the government should work in collaboration with the provinces, territories and First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities to eradicate child poverty in Canada by developing a national poverty reduction plan that includes: (a) making housing more affordable for lower income Canadians; (b) ensuring accessible and affordable child care; (c) addressing childhood nutrition; (d) improving economic security of families; (e) measures that specifically address the unique needs of First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities; and (f) measurable targets and timelines.

November 12, 2014

Reddit - toronto: news from T.O.

Reddit logoHow the hell do the poor survive in this city?

[Some readers may find the language used in this post somewhat offensive. It is to be hoped that every reader will find the circumstances depicted in this post even more offensive! Ed.]
My friend finally got evicted from his old apartment ($1050 / mo) after 3 months of nonpayment. He has some serious emotional and health issues at current that are making it very hard for him to work.

We're looking to find him an apartment in the GTA, preferably near the subway as he's currently going DT for counselling nearly every day, but Ontario Works only pays $376 a month for shelter. I've helped him apply to Toronto Community Housing but we were told to expect a three to five years wait.

November 12, 2014

Huffington Post - Canada - The Blog - Glen Pearson

Glen PearsonFood Banks Were Meant to be Temporary. So Why Are They Growing?

The recent Hunger Count by Food Banks Canada is now a week old, but with the way things are digressing it might very well be next year's news, and that of the year after, and the year after.

This is one of the reasons why The Economist reversed its judgment of a decade ago and now labels us as, "Uncool Canada (The Moose Loses Its Shades)." Any nation, or its people, that continues to tolerate the proliferation of food banks in a world of financial abundance has clearly lost its appeal to the better angels of our nature.