Food bank has been help­ing those in need for decades

Kingston Whig-Standard - - FORUM - SANDY SINGERS

As I plan for my re­tire­ment next year, this as it turns out, will be my last Christ­mas let­ter. I have been writ­ing these let­ters for about 20 of my 25 years with the food bank in the hope that by let­ting the com­mu­nity know what we are do­ing and how great the need is for emer­gency food re­lief, it will re­mind our donors that we need their sup­port.

For 34 years, Part­ners in Mis­sion Food Bank has been help­ing low­in­come fam­i­lies and in­di­vid­u­als with emer­gency food re­lief. That means there are now 34-year-olds who have never known a world with­out food banks and might have the per­cep­tion that this is the best we can do. Some might think that poverty has been looked af­ter, “sure there are poor peo­ple but they can al­ways go to a food bank, shel­ter or a hot meal pro­gram and get fixed up.” All those es­sen­tial ser­vices are do­ing their best to mit­i­gate one symp­tom of poverty and a pretty im­por­tant one at that, but we are only scratch­ing the sur­face of a much broader and more com­plex is­sue.

The com­plex­ity of poverty is driven home to us ev­ery year when we re­view how many ham­pers we gave out in the year (13,000 in 2018), how many more that is since last year (a five per cent in­crease), and how many clients are work­ing (14 per cent). The pic­ture this paints is very dis­turb­ing when we con­sider how our cur­rent pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment is at­tempt­ing to change the nar­ra­tive of what causes poverty in the first place. Get a job, any job, and you will rise out of poverty. This begs the ques­tion: What kind of jobs? And where are they?

The top five job ti­tles listed on­line in On­tario are for jobs in re­tail, hos­pi­tal­ity, de­liv­ery, as care­givers and as sales rep­re­sen­ta­tive. The re­tail sec­tor is the sec­ond largest em­ployer (to health care) in On­tario at 11 per cent of the work­force. It is well doc­u­mented that many in this sec­tor earn min­i­mum wage and may be with­out ben­e­fits. So how are these kinds of jobs go­ing to pro­vide work­ers with enough money to se­cure af­ford­able hous­ing and main­tain a sta­ble home for a fam­ily? They don’t.

What we heard from Queen’s Park is a puni­tive ap­proach to get­ting folks off the On­tario Works rolls by forc­ing them into very un­sta­ble work en­vi­ron­ments. Sure this will save tax­pay­ers money in the short term, but what hap­pens longterm we have seen be­fore. When a large seg­ment of the pop­u­la­tion is forced into poverty, health-care costs in­crease, fam­i­lies are stressed and fall apart, more chil­dren are dis­placed and there is ul­ti­mately more crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity. Even peo­ple re­ceiv­ing ODSP will be fac­ing more scru­tiny, and as hard as it has been to se­cure this sup­port in the past, it will be­come more chal­leng­ing mov­ing for­ward. Work will not help these folks.

This is a global prob­lem de­scribed as “the new econ­omy” that is es­sen­tially big busi­ness do­ing all it can to elim­i­nate the need to em­ploy peo­ple or worse, to do busi­ness in coun­tries where no em­ploy­ment stan­dards ex­ist and wages are un­liv­able. We can con­tinue to re­ar­range deck chairs on the Ti­tanic and watch poverty in­crease around the world or take steps now to pro­tect liv­able wages and job se­cu­rity that re­build a sta­ble econ­omy for all of us. It may be a dream to turn the tide, but if noth­ing is done to of­fer peo­ple ad­e­quate sup­ports un­til bet­ter op­por­tu­ni­ties re­turn, food banks will con­tinue to be es­sen­tial to a grow­ing num­ber. What has al­ways amazed me over these many years is the level of sup­port Kingston has given to our ser­vice and ul­ti­mately help­ing our low-in­come neigh­bours. I would like to thank you all for the fund­ing and food do­na­tions and I hope that this will con­tinue, as it is needed now as it was in 1984. It has been a great hon­our to be a part of this on­go­ing ef­fort. From all of us here at Part­ners in Mis­sion Food Bank, have a Merry Christ­mas and a safe and healthy new year.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.