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

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

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

Brian Morris, 2015 Food Bank Challenge Participant, Constituency Manager & Executive Assistant, York Region
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Controlling the debate - Part 1

December 15, 2015

Good arguments help

"The federal and provincial governments need to do more to address the reasons why people have to go to food banks." That's the view of Marilyn Hermann, Executive Director of Surrey Food Bank. And that quote comes from a B.C. Almanac broadcast that aired on CBC Radio on December 3, 2015.

In the broadcast Peter Sinclair, Executive Director of Nanaimo Loaves & Fishes Community Food Bank, asserts, "I think first and foremost, support from the government for people living in poverty needs to be increased. Whether it be for welfare or disability. That ... it is unacceptably low and that certainly needs to change. We also need to recognize that it is more than just government effort that's required here. It needs to be a whole community effort."

The dialogue in some segments of the food bank business is obviously changing.

Graham Riches, emeritus professor of social work at the University of British Columbia, is the third guest on the show. He says there needs to be a full public debate about the role of food banks and the concept of "using surplus food and wasted food to actually feed hungry people." That debate, that discussion, he says, needs to be "out in the public".

Riches questions why the CBC, a public institution, is supporting food bank drives when the real debate should be about the right to food. His question is not rhetorical, but he gets no good answer. Actually, he gets no answer at all.

By way of response, host Gloria Macarenko poses her own question. She asks professor Riches if people should not donate at all or, if they do donate, should they follow through with a note to a government official saying, "Hey, we're doing your job for you here and it's time that you stepped up"?

The latter action, replies Riches, is "absolutely what people should be doing ... and let's hope that they do because I think that would be a change in terms of public attitude and a very significant one." He notes there is a "moral imperative" to donate, but cautions that "at the same time it masks the underlying problems. And the underlying problems are really that government is accountable. Government is, in international law, the primary duty bearer. It actually has the responsibility. And none of our governments, over time, have actually addressed that and picked it up."

When Ms Hermann, from Surrey Food Bank, wants to know "whose responsibility is it to make this happen?", Riches' answer is simple enough: "I think it is your responsibility, but your organization is also run by "Corporate Canada". I mean the big supermarkets and corporate retail giants actually support you - with the Conference Board of Canada. Now, why aren't they arguing for the kinds of things, in public, that we need?"

How's your memory? Did you hear a debate on "using surplus food and wasted food to actually feed hungry people" while you were tuned in to one of CBC's food bank drives? It doesn't seem likely. The following links show the result when the powerful forces referred to by Riches effect control over the debate:

St. John's - Turkey Drive

Gander - Turkey Drive

Corner Brook - Turkey Drive

Happy Valley-Goose Bay - Turkey Drive

Sydney - Light up a Life

Charlottetown - Turkey Drive

Halifax - Feed Nova Scotia Day

Saint John - Harbour Lights

Fredericton - Feed a Family

Quebec City - Community Christmas Hamper Campaign

Montreal - Christmas Sing-In Charity Drive

Ottawa - Project Give

Toronto - Sounds of the Season

Hamilton - Sounds of the Season

Sudbury - Sounds of the Season

Kitchener - Sounds of The Season

Windsor - Sounds of the Season

Thunder Bay - Sounds of the Season

Winnipeg - Harvesting Hope Campaign

Regina - Food Bank Day

Saskatoon - Food Bank Day

Edmonton - Turkey Drive for Food Bank

Calgary - Suncor Food Bank Drive

Kelowna - Food Bank Day

Kamloops - Food Bank Day

Prince George - Food Bank Day

Vancouver - Food Bank Day

Victoria - Food Bank Day

Prince Rupert - Food Bank Day