Food banks were meant to be a short-term support but have become the mainstay for too many of our neighbours living below the poverty line.
By Doreen Nicoll
Published December 08, 2014
'Tis the holiday season, a time for giving and sharing with those less fortunate than ourselves. It's an admirable gesture and well worth doing.
For many of us, it's as simple as going to our overflowing pantries and choosing a few canned goods that will never be missed. Then we send them to the school food drive or the local food bank.
Thank you to the thousands of volunteers who sort, ship and distribute the much-needed food at this time of year. You touch many lives and for that I'm grateful.
Thanks to all of you who share your good fortune with others in your community. So, please, while you're enjoying that warm fuzzy feeling that we all get from giving and teaching our children to share, consider these alarming facts:
Full-time minimum wage workers live 16 percent below the poverty line.
A single person receiving Ontario Works social assistance has $656 per month to pay for rent and expenses, including healthy food.
$266 per month is the cost of a healthy diet in the GTHA.
Typically, you can go to the food bank once a month which meets 9% of an individual's monthly food needs and has an annul value of $295 or 1/10 of what a healthy diet truly costs.
Don't get me wrong: please continue to give and give generously when so many are going without at this time of year. But then sit down and write a holiday card to your MP asking them to: explain their party's plan to implement a living wage for all working Canadians; increase the number of full-time jobs with benefits; establish a national housing strategy; and create a national child care strategy.
Since you have pen in hand, send a card to your MPP, Regional Chair, and City Counsellor asking if 2015 will be the year that they make Ontario a living wage province.
How about increasing Ontario Disability Support Program and Ontario Works monthly payments by $24.50 ($295 annually) so that recipients can purchase the food that they currently get from food banks, or better still, healthier foods of their choosing.
Food banks were meant to be a short-term solution for individuals and families needing a little help while they got back on their feet financially.
Instead, food banks have become the mainstay for too many of our neighbours on social assistance, or those working full time but earning below the poverty line, and even our so called middle class.
It's time to rip that band-aid off and replace it with a comprehensive plan to improve the quality of life for everyone living in Canada and not just at the holidays.
I am eternally grateful to the people who donated food and to the people working at the food banks that fed me and my children from November 2006 to March 2007 while I was experiencing situational poverty after paying for a 19 day divorce trial and awaiting child support payments.
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