Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Realities Beneath an Advanced Economy

"Currently in Ontario there are 1.7 million jobs that are considered insecure. Since the 2008 recession, of the jobs created in Canada, 80 percent have been temporary positions. That means people with full-time jobs are still having trouble making ends meet."
"I think the biggest message is that it's still astronomically high [food bank usage]. It's too many hungry people. People often think that people accessing food banks are 'riding the system'. That is so incredibly inaccurate."
"The social services being provided by the government are insufficient and as a result people have to look to external sources to make ends meet. Hunger is not actually the problem, hunger is a symptom of the problem, which is poverty. Fundamentally, people do not have the means to afford basic living in Ontario and that is an issue."
"When people think of a food bank they think of it as a place for non-perishable food that's given out maybe in a hamper, but food banks have grown so far beyond that. Food banks are very much becoming hubs for social innovation."
Amanda King, Ontario Association of Food Banks

Local firefighters collected over 33,350 items for the Orléans-Cumberland foodbank.
When people think of food banks what is conjured before their eyes is a homeless person, an elderly person living on welfare, just generally people at the very lowest stratum of the economic-social ladder who need a boost to allow them to obtain subsistence levels of nutrition. The majority of the population complaining about rising costs of everything, including food, are still able to afford the necessities of life. People in severely straitened financial situations cannot.

And these are not always only the people living hand-to-mouth, waiting for a miracle to lift them out of poverty and in the meanwhile taking advantage of what food supplies the local food bank can supply them with to supplement their own meagre resources. These are people who through no fault of their own have fallen on very hard times as well. These are people who though universal medicare covers their health costs, fall in arrears when a catastrophic illness hits because they cannot pay for housing and food.

They can include people who have always worked their way through the games of life, but whom life has thrown an unanticipated hardball at. People who are single, people who are the sole wage earners in a family, people with university degrees, people who formerly worked in the health care or social service provisioning field, who have suddenly had the comfort of everyday existence yanked out from under. Including children in their teen years finding themselves approaching a situation they need help with.

Workers and volunteers sort through food donations at the Cumberland/Orleans Food Bank
Yes, those visiting food banks also represent the alcoholics, the drug addicts, those who would prefer anything but work of hard labour to get them through the working week, but food bank registrants represent anyone in society in need of compassionate help, and they have grown in numbers over the years. Bearing in mind that Canada ranks among the wealthy countries who managed to make it through the global recession relatively unscathed.

In a report released a few days ago it was revealed that the number of Ontario households for the first time requiring that special assistance was on an increase. The annual survey produced by the Ontario Association of Food Banks compared food bank usage year over year, finding a 20 percent rise in first-time applicant-users, resulting in 17,182 households deemed to have accessed food banks, a rise over last year's 14,206 total households.

These are people requiring social assistance of an extraordinary measure to help them place food on their tables; from single people responsible for themselves alone, to families with children to feed. The quality and quantity of employment opportunities appear logically the most likely culprit in the search for a meaningful answer to the conundrum of a need that was felt would dwindle, not increase when food banks first came into existence.

Ontario's food banks were used by 374,698 people in March of 2014 -- a figure slightly lower than the 375,698 people requiring those services last March. The Ontario Association of Food Banks estimates that 770,000 individuals make use of food banks on an annual basis. Since 1998, the report noted, monthly food bank use has not dropped below 370,000 individuals. Prior to the 2008 recession, 314,000 people made use of food banks in March of 2008.

Single-individual households represent 46% of food bank users, while 35% of those requiring the aid of food banks are children. As a possible way to meet the challenge of feeding people who require that basic minimum nutrition to be provided through an outside source, while living a life of notable privation, the report speaks to the provincial government for the implementation of a monthly Ontario housing benefit grant to low-income tenants based on rent and income.

As well, it urges consideration for an increase in payments to Ontario's social assistance programs, and that government provide funding for the transportation of fresh food to Ontario's most vulnerable communities. The Ontario Association of Food Banks is a network of 125 food banks across the province, as well as over 1,100 hunger relief programs and agencies province-wide. The situation in Ontario is reflected across the country.

So much for living in Canada, a technologically, socially advanced member of the G7, lauded for its ability to withstand the rigours of the global recession that left Canada in the best shape of all its partners in democracy and prosperity.

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