Canada's first food bank opened in 1981.
Remember 1981? The U.S.S.R was the enemy, Exhibition Stadium the home of the Blue Jays and Eaton’s was a great place to shop.
The country, the stadium and the retailer are long gone. But the Edmonton food bank, billed at the time as a temporary solution, is still here and about 650 others have been added across our affluent land.
And it is getting worse.
A situation reported by the Belleville Intelligencer this week is illustrative.
The number of new clients at Gleaners Food bank (which serves the Quinte Region of South-Eastern Ontario) doubled this December over December 2007.
The number of food hampers issued this past January is up 43% over the previous January.
The Board is considering increasing the hours the food bank is open.
On Tuesday 240 dozen eggs came in. At closing there were only about thirty dozen left. There was fighting among clients.
On Wednesday a man and his son are alleged to have threatened staff. Police were involved.
Could this have been foreseen?
“We were afraid something was going to happen today because we had clients fighting yesterday,” Suzanne Quinlan, the Centre’s Director told the Intelligencer.
Now the Board, already struggling to meet client needs, has to consider adding security staff.
Carol Goar’s opinion piece in yesterday’s Toronto Star puts the food issue in context.
The average weekly food bill in Canada is $140 or 10.4% of income. If a mother of two on welfare:
“ spent 10.4% per cent of her income on food, as other parents do, her weekly grocery budget would be $25.14. She would have to buy a lot of bread, pasta, rice and other cheap starches and get whatever she could at the local food bank.”
Political Solution Needed
But food banks, a temporary solution, have reached their limits. I’m not stating anything new or profound when I say that people shouldn’t go hungry in this country; parents shouldn’t have to count on a food bank to feed their children.
There are political solutions to these matters. The Harperites aren’t interested. Their recent budget proved that. Let’s hope McGuinty’s government shows some leadership in their March budget.