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Hunger Action Month: Advocate

The Problem:

Hunger is a symptom of poverty. We, and food banks across Canada, exist not because there is a lack of food in our city / country, but because many people don’t have access to adequate income to afford the basic necessities – food included.

Systemic, policy, and societal changes are not only necessary to ending hunger, but also alleviating poverty. These changes require cooperation and collaboration from all levels government.

A Step Forward:

Recently, the Federal Government released a new National Poverty Reduction Strategy to help low-income Canadians with the goal of boosting more than 2.1 million people, including 534,000 children, above the poverty line over the next 12 years.

It is encouraging to see the new standardized poverty line, poverty reduction targets, and creation of a standing National Poverty Advisory Council will become legislated for future governments. This will standardized language, create clear measurements, and increase accountability.

The new Poverty Reduction Strategy, called Opportunity for All, is a great first step and framework for what lies ahead, however, the Ottawa Food Bank was hoping to see new spending commitments that would reduce the need for Canadians to turn to food banks.

For our full reaction to Opportunity for All, please click here.

A Step Back:

Slightly closer to home, we were disappointed when the Ontario Government decided to cancel the Basic Income pilot – which it committed to continue during the provincial election. The pilot program, which was already producing positive outcomes in participating communities, would have provided evidence-based research as to whether a basic income approach could be a tool to reduce poverty in Ontario.

Many of the people who turn to their community food bank know all too well how easy it is to suddenly need help. How easy it is to find yourself in need of assistance.

So now what?

The Ottawa Food Bank firmly believes to truly eradicate poverty and reliance on food banks, all levels of government need to work together. Every level of government must make commitments to more affordable housing, a guaranteed basic income, attracting secure employment, and appropriate social assistance rates.

Both the federal government and the City of Ottawa have made commitments to improve affordable housing over the next 10 years. For most people who turn to food banks, the biggest problem is access to affordable housing. Across Ontario, the problem is compounded: fewer rental units being built and skyrocketing rent.

Basic income is the type of initiative we hoped to see in the National Poverty Reduction Strategy. The Ottawa Food Bank was disappointed with the Ontario Government’s decision to cancel the Basic Income pilot. The pilot program would have provided evidence-based research as to whether a basic income approach could be a cost-effective tool to reduce poverty in Ontario.

Skilled and mid-level job opportunities need to be created in Ottawa and across the country. We see more and more young people in temporary, part-time, and contract work which risks a future of job instability and low wages.

A large number of adults who visit a food program state that social assistance as their main source of income. This indicates that these supports do not provide enough income to afford all of the recipient’s most basic needs.

Appropriate housing, income, employment, and assistance are essential to reducing poverty. To see any change in poverty and food insecurity, we need to see change in these four areas. The federal government has taken a first step, but it takes us all to reduce hunger and poverty, and we urge our political and policy leaders to accelerate the implementation of important initiatives such as Working Tax Benefits, affordable housing strategies, reinstating the Guaranteed Basic Income, and higher social assistance rates.

Please click here to see the Ontario Associations of Food Bank’s recommendations for change.

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