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I don't understand this either, Bob. It seems that other areas' decisions are more in line with what the money was intended for. Hamilton has been hit so hard. Perhaps they could have used this for a good food basket or to secure or increase our Ontario Works payments to help with food or back to school which has been take away ... I know our roads and sidewalks are important as well, but come on. Well at least people will have good sidewalks to panhandle on.
I agree, Angela, before you give to any charitable organization you should check into their operation to ensure that their priorities are the same as yours in regards to financial planning. If they do not provide this then you perhaps should not give to them. I don't think anyone believes that foodbanks alone help people out of poverty. Have you been to all the food banks in Hamilton? Many of your statements lead me to think you have not. I agree that the classic sense of a food bank divides people, but a community centre that accepts all people to help run, work and deliver a program has the ability to bring community together. Also the way the food is delivered can do a lot to break down barriers. Running a food bank as a store where people have free choice and decision making is key. I think your closed perception of a "foodbank" as a stand alone service is outdated. That description is actually a food pantry, where that is a stand alone food program. There are community service centres that offer wonderful programs, employment, education, micro loans, transitional VAW workers -- the list is long. The food bank gives the client temporary food, a Band-aid if you will, and then they are able to utilize the other programs to help them out of the cycle of poverty. It is key to keep these other programs going as they are the programs that make a long term difference in someone's life. You touched on something very important -- the people who suffer from multiple maladies. Numerous people use food banks who have cancer, AIDS and other life threatening diseases that require specific food. Most have lost everything due to not being able to work while they are sick. I personally see dozens of these people every week. I am heart broken at the number of people who walk into a food bank or receive a home delivered package. We all, as a community, have failed them. And if we closed down foodbanks without funding or social assistance increases, these are the people that would suffer a great deal. I would urge activists like yourself to consider this when you are putting pressure where pressure is needed. It is my goal to end foodbanks as well -- but there needs to be a seamless transition to a better way. Another thing you are missing is that many people who work in the "poverty industry" are impoverished or have been at one time and the reason they are in the industry is because of the help they received and wish to pass it along and share what they have done. I work in this industry and I value everyone as equal because I see my reflection in every single person who comes to where I work. I am sure an "us and them " mentality does exist for some people as we are no different from the general public, but it is not the majority and you know what happens when you assume.
I think we all agree, more money needs to be given to people to purchase food. Taking away money from those who are the most vulnerable among us is a disgrace. Food is a right, not a privilege. Food banks do their best to encourage good food donations and also purchase nutritious, culturally-appropriate food. It is important to remember, foodbanks are supported by the community. If you want to change one. get on the board, become involved with them. The food banks I know have caring people who feel the same way you all do, who are trying to do something positive about poverty on a daily basis. Bashing them in The Spec, at council and public health meetings or online on a regular basis without justification will only divide us. The reality is, the government is not willing to take on the right of food and provide it for all, so if you got rid of foodbanks, we would have a true famine in many neighbourhoods in our city. Now some people may want that in order to have a "revolution." I am not prepared to do that, I have already seen enough people die and be ill from lack of nutrition in my life. I want to find a solution that heals and unites us, not destroys and divides us.
I am shocked and dismayed at the cutting of the special dietary allowance. Healthy food is crucial to a being a healthy person. The Government needs to realize this and work to provide equal access to good, healthy, fresh, culturally and dietarily appropriate food. Hopefully through increasing funds but also through urban farming, market vouchers, edible school yards, salad bar school kitchens, prenatal food programs - the list of options is unending. If they spent money up front on food, it would decrease our payments into the health care system because fewer people would be ill. Our food system is broken. We are all food insecure no matter what you think. Having money just hides it for a while. And here we sit in the middle of the largest food recall North America has seen, deep fryer school kitchens, diabetes epidemic, child obesity epidemic, lost touch with what our grandparents grew/processed/ate and only three days of food to sustain us if there were any kind of disruption to the current food system - And the government takes away a dietary supplement to those in the most need. Really?
Hi Bob: I would come out and see that film. Maybe Cottage Life would allow a screening at their location? I remember very well that half of the ownership in Toronto had absolutely no idea what was happening, and I was heart broken over the woman who had a hoarding problem. I hope you manage to track down some of the residents here. I would love to see their stories represented in the media and to get their voices heard. Vicky
Toggle Commented Sep 17, 2009 on Fairness to tenants at The Poverty Project
I couldn't agree with you more, Bob. You have echoed exactly what I thought when I read that article. It also reminded me of what happened with the Gladstone on Queen in Toronto. There is a great documentary called Last Call at the Gladstone that explores this exact situation.
Toggle Commented Sep 15, 2009 on Fairness to tenants at The Poverty Project
Good morning: I speak out quite a bit about food banks and anti-poverty initiatives as I am very passionate about food security. Making personal accusations of someone not caring on this blog is not an effective form of debate. I speak out on many levels within the community both formal and informal. I was a temp worker in the same position at the same time so I will dismiss your statements. Food banks don't alleviate poverty, they alleviate hunger for 3-5 days. Our programs that embrace the food bank help people get out of poverty. I am not party to anyone's salary -- but you can see how much a charity spends on administration through the freedom of information bill put through by MP John Bryden in the 1990s. This can be found on most non-profits websites, end of year report. Our food bank uses the up to date low income cutoff scores but there are many reasons people visit us and we never let anyone leave without food if we can help it, as many homeless don't have proof of income. Michelle, I do not need to "face anyone" as I have done nothing wrong. (Michelle, that is a very threatening statement.) Your hostility is misplaced. I "face" the recipients of our services honestly with dignity, integrity and caring every day as I see myself, friends and family reflected in their faces. I was going to come to the Campaign for Adequate Welfare and Disability Benefits but based on your last statements I would feel very threatened to attend. But I would encourage them to contact the food banks they have issues with directly and if it is the food bank I work for, then I will speak with them face to face. Vicky
Angela: I have read all the blog replies and no one here is saying that food banks solve poverty. All they solve is hunger for 3-5 days. It is the programs that embrace the food bank that help to get people out of poverty. But just for a moment — without current policy change and Ontario Works reform (which I am for, by the way) — what would happen if all the food banks shut down in Hamilton? For a week? Or month? And how does that weigh with the expired food issue? I don't deny the stories of bad product — and some food banks are better than others. But I have purchased bad food from grocery stores. And what I do, anyone can do at a food bank - take it back and return it for a replacement. I have seen many clients of ours being lifted out of poverty and I am sorry that you have not had the opportunity to see that. It is a wonderful thing to see. As a single parent who has lived in poverty myself, I understand more than most what it takes. I talk to 100 families who use our food bank every day, I hear all of the feedback, good and bad, and I resolve the bad where I can. I am almost always successful — whether it is more food or referrals or if they just need someone to hear them. As for salaries and such, all non-profits are audited and you can get their year ends and statements online. You can determine if they spend too much on salary. Most non-profit workers don't have benefits and do not make what their position would make in a for-profit. I know this first hand. A lot of non-profits are small and have fewer than 10 employees and the staff choose to work there because they are passionate about helping other people. As far as video being used as a "tool for the truth," I would agree it does do that and I would encourage that. But I would be careful what you wish for. Food bank usage is going up by 33 per cent each month in Hamilton, we are seeing the largest usage ever (in the last 20 years) and most food banks are supplying food to 4000+ individuals a month. Multiply that by the number of food banks in Hamilton. All this is at a time of all time low donations and support. And I ask you again, what would happen if the food banks shut down before policy and funds are in place to take over?
Well said Rosie, truly insightful. I agree with you. And in order to have a ridiculous "class action" against food banks, first you would have to strike down the Good Samaritan Law in Canada or prove that they acted with intent to harm. Good luck with that, Angela.
Vitor: I agree and I am tired of hearing the same “story” over and over again about food banks, when this same argument presented here is also presented in the Spec editorial and at city hall committees and has nothing to do with our multi-service agencies in Hamilton that run food banks. In Hamilton, most anti-poverty activists are working together in the Emergency Food Action Committee and all other kinds of committees, round tables, working groups and yes, multi-service agencies that have food banks, to end poverty. We should be working as a team. Rallies are great but won’t feed people today. No one believes that a food bank itself is the answer, and of the big nine food banks in Hamilton, none is just a food bank. They are all “multi-service agencies” dedicated to end the cycle of poverty. Many have been open for over 20 years and know their community needs very well. Unfortunately the need for food is there and they are the ones answering the call. They run a myriad of programs to combat poverty such as educational programs, addiction treatment, resource counseling, housing, meal programs … too many to list here. I have years of experience on the front line of multi-service agencies in Hamilton and I can tell you I have only seen one person removed from a food bank, and that was because that gentleman was physically harming a staff member. It was not his fault as he himself was a victim of our limited mental health system. And he had to be removed for the safety of a temp worker (temp workers have rights too). No one would ever be removed because they were asking for food. I know where I have worked we have a rule that we turn no one away. Food banks are manned with some of the most dedicated and passionate volunteers I know. They work hard to sort out all the bad food from the good. The food banks I have worked with will exchange any food item that is less than desirable, no questions asked. We are inspected, just as restaurants are, and keep the inspection on file. The city of Hamilton is working on adding food banks to their online directory that already shows the restaurant inspections. You can see this for your self by going to the website. Perhaps this is part of the problem — poverty activists are too busy fighting with each other to solve the real issues. So I invite anyone to take a tour of the multi-service agencies in Hamilton and then judge for themselves.