Increase welfare to decrease hunger, inquiry hears

TheStar.com – News
Published On Tue Nov 23 2010.   Isabel Teotonio, Staff Reporter

One of the keys to combating the growing rate of hunger is to increase social assistance, panelists at a hunger inquiry heard yesterday.

“(Hunger) is a serious problem and all indications are it’s getting worse,” University of Toronto public health professor Valerie Tarasuk told the inquiry, which was hosted by the Recession Relief Coalition.

“It can’t be fixed without addressing the income problem,” said Tarasuk. “The ripple effect is gigantic and I don’t think we’ve begun to calculate those costs.”

The six-member panel, which included an economist, family doctor and food activist, heard from more than 30 front-line workers, social service agency staff, academics, community leaders and people directly affected by hunger.

There is a strong link between housing costs and hunger, said Richard Matern of the Daily Bread Food Bank. His group has seen a 16 per cent jump in food bank visits in the past year — the largest increase since social assistance rates were cut in 1995.

Most clients spend nearly three quarters of their income on rent, said Matern, who suggested government build more subsidized housing.

Unlike some other provinces, hunger is on the rise in Ontario, in part, because social assistance rates have not been indexed to inflation, Tarasuk said. (The province did increase the maximum monthly Ontario Works rates by 1 per cent, starting December 2010.)

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