Philippe Ozga, Director of Government Relations and Advocacy, Food Banks Canada
Over the last few weeks, the national headlines have been focused on scandals, past missteps from candidates of all stripes, and some tit-for-tat wrangling over minutiae dissecting similar party platforms.
Lost in all of this is the fact that over a million Canadians a month visited food banks across the country last year and over a third of those served were children.
While it is true that the economy is doing relatively well and that the federal government has made important progress over the last few years with the introduction of the Canada Child Benefit, the National Housing Strategy and the National Poverty Strategy – all of which had been advocated for and welcomed by Food Banks Canada – far too many Canadians are struggling to make ends meet.The fact that there is a deafening silence from party leaders and candidates across the country on the issue of poverty and food insecurity implies that all is well on this front. Well – it is not, and the goal to reduce poverty in Canada is far from realized.
Whether it be due to the high cost of childcare for a young family, the high cost of rent, a lost job, seasonal work that has come to an end, or a disability that makes it impossible to work – people from all ages, and in every riding in the country, are sometimes left with no other choice but to turn to their local food bank for help.
At a time when social isolation is becoming more prevalent and where people are often left to fend for themselves, food banks are there with open arms and a warm welcome when people have nowhere else to turn.
Beyond being able to offer emergency food supplies, food banks often offer a wide range of services that vary from community gardens and kitchens, to referrals to other local services, to helping clients file their taxes to receive the financial supports available to them, to providing training and education opportunities to find a job.
Food banks can do many things to help people get back on their feet and reduce their immediate food insecurity – yet they are unable to address the root causes of why people need their services in the first place.
That is because, at its core, the root causes of food insecurity stem from poverty and lack of income – and those issues can only be solved by sound government policies.
Food Security and Poverty Should Be On the Ballot
Luckily – elections are a time for renewal, a time for aspiration, and a time to demand better from those who seek to lead.
This is why Food Banks Canada, and many other organizations across the country, are calling on all parties who seek to form the next government to commit to doing more during this election and beyond.
We believe that Canadians deserve a government that will reduce the crippling cost of early learning and childcare across the country for far too many families.
They deserve a government that will introduce immediate measures to reduce the cost of housing for the millions of people who spend far too much of their incomes just to put a roof over their heads.And they deserve a government who will take serious steps to replace our broken social assistance system that hasn`t evolved for decades and move us towards a basic income for all where people who are unable to work can live with dignity.
These solutions, along with others that would reduce poverty and help people have the means to support themselves, are the true keys to reducing food insecurity in Canada – and they should be a critical question at the ballot box for all Canadians.