Food banks busier than ever

Manitoulin Family Resources is set to open their newly constructed food bank this month.  While I am saddened that I will be in Ottawa and unable to join their celebrations for this achievement, I am more than a little frustrated that in a country as rich as ours the number of Canadians who rely on food banks is growing every year.

This is an indictment of an economy that simply isn’t working for enough people and is not focussed on drawing more people onto the positive side of the ledger.   If proof of that is needed, look no further than the shocking new numbers from Food Banks Canada.  That organization’s latest report shows that in March alone nearly 850,000 Canadians used a food bank.  This is a huge number and represents a full 25 per cent increase from 2008.  This stat shows how hard it is to get by on low paid and part time work.

Perhaps the most disturbing figure in the report is that 37 per cent of food bank users are children.  This from a country whose parliament unanimously passed a resolution in 1989 to end child poverty by the year 2000 - #Fail.  The only consistent political will in the 25 years since, through Liberal and Conservative governments, has been to cut corporate tax rates and help those who are already wealthy.

It is clear that if we are going to change this negative trend it will not be by going down the same paths that have created the problem in the first place.  We have to find a way for hard working families to keep enough money to be able to fend for themselves.  Boutique tax cuts aren’t getting the job done mostly because you need to have the money and expenditures in the first place – so they only favour those who are already getting by.  One of the things needed is relief on the single biggest expense parents with young children face – child care.

Food Banks Canada is calling for an investment in child care and the stats they provide are proof positive that that the Conservative’s plan is not working.  The current approach, providing a small contribution every month for kids under 6, is only a drop in the bucket when compared to actual child care costs. And the new income splitting regime is even less helpful since it really just favours those who are already wealthy enough to afford a stay-at-home parent. 

The New Democrat plan for subsidized spaces will provide affordable daycare that allows low income earners to take care of basics, while making the same thing available to higher income Canadians - who already pay more in taxes which will be used to fund the initiative. 

Another angle on this story is the sense of community that leads to the creation of food banks and their shelves being stocked.  This is primarily done by the work of volunteers and fueled by individual donations (bravo and bravo).   Local food banks are a perfect example of community activism that takes care of those who fall through the cracks.  The good work and success stories of people who make our communities better should always be lauded.  Just like the fact that more people are falling through the cracks should never be ignored.