Hunger in Canada is primarily an income problem

Posted on October 4, 2019 in Social Security Debates

Source: — Authors: – Opinion
October 3, 2019.   Daniel Rotman, Special To Montreal Gazette

Ask your local candidates how they will work to increase incomes and what policies they will adopt to put more money in people’s pockets.

In Montreal, more than 250,000 people live with food insecurity. That means that almost 15 per cent of Montrealers have trouble feeding themselves or their families. In diverse neighbourhoods like Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, the poverty rate is 25 per cent or greater.

If these numbers make you want to go out and donate to your local food bank, I encourage you to do so. The reality is, however, that hunger and food insecurity are not food problems; they are primarily income problems.

Many of our neighbours are struggling to make ends meet. Inadequate social assistance rates, low-wage jobs and precarious or inconsistent employment make it almost impossible to keep up with the rising costs of housing, transport and food.

Food insecurity, defined as the inadequate access to affordable food, is not an isolated problem. Most food-insecure households are employed. Almost 40 per cent of students at post-secondary campuses are food insecure. In Quebec, the basic benefit for single and employable social assistance recipients is $648 per month, leaving very little money after rent and other fixed costs for food.

In our multicultural community, systemic barriers make getting by even harder. Racialized people are four times more likely to live in poverty than their non-racialized neighbours. People living with disabilities are twice as likely to live in poverty and LGBTQ2S youth make up almost a third of youth who are homeless.

The situation for children is particularly grim. More than one-third of food bank users in Montreal are children, and across Canada 40 per cent of Indigenous children live in poverty . In fact, UNICEF rated Canada 17th out of 29 wealthy countries due to the number of children living in poverty in Canada and 26th out of 35 wealthy countries for overall child inequality.

These staggering statistics are unacceptable and have profound impacts on our community’s health and well-being. People living with food insecurity have higher rates of diet-related chronic illnesses, costing the Canadian health-care system $13.8 billion a year. Food insecurity also negatively impacts mental health and can lead to increases in incidences of depression, suicidal thoughts, and mood and anxiety disorders. Children born into food insecurity are affected for the rest of their lives, leaving them at greater risk for conditions like asthma and depression.

The scope and depth of this problem may seem insurmountable, but it is not. There is a wealth of evidence to suggest that policies aimed at increasing incomes can significantly reduce food insecurity.

For example, we have seen that when people qualify for the Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement at 65, their risk of food insecurity declines by 50 per cent. Similarly, in Newfoundland and Labrador, food insecurity rates among social assistance recipients decreased by almost half following an increase in income support rates.

At The Depot Community Food Centre, we work every day to provide healthy food, build community, and reinforce food skills and nutritional knowledge. This work is important and we have seen the positive impacts it can have, but it alone will not end food insecurity and hunger in Montreal. The most viable solution to reducing poverty lies with government.

It is essential that all levels of government adopt policies that put more money in people’s pockets, from increasing social assistance and disability rates to raising in the minimum wage and expanding refundable tax credits.

This election season, I invite you all to join us in pushing for a just and equitable society. Ask your local candidates how they will work to increase incomes and make sure that everyone in our community has the means to live a healthy and happy life.

Daniel Rotman is executive director of The Depot Community Food Centre, formerly the NDG Food Depot, the 2019 recipient of the “Coup de coeur” Prix d’excellence, one of Quebec’s top awards in health.

Tags: , , , , ,

This entry was posted on Friday, October 4th, 2019 at 12:06 pm and is filed under Social Security Debates. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply