In December, many of us turn our focus to feeding people we don’t know, especially through food donations or volunteering at emergency food programs. We feed community members with a hopeful sense of Until. We hope that the food they receive will last until their next cheque comes in. And we hope that they will only need this help until they get a decent job (Statistics Canada tells us that most food-insecure people already have jobs. However, these jobs just don’t pay enough to keep food on the table).
Where food insecurity is concerned, the hopeful sense of Until has lasted for decades. When Canada’s first food bank opened 40 years ago, it was with a sense of being temporary, of being there until people were back on their feet and it could close. Fast forward to today and hundreds of food banks dot this country’s landscape. Canadians have been supporting the food bank model for four decades, just waiting until food insecurity is no longer a problem and food banks can close. However, Canada now has more food-insecure people than ever before, over 4.4 million, and only a small fraction of them actually use food banks. If we stay on this path, it could be a very long wait indeed until.
What if we switch from waiting with a hopeful sense of Until to advocating with a more determined conviction that now is time to act? This requires both vision and implementation. First, we need to be able to actually see and believe in a future where all people have the means to access the food they need with dignity. Next, we need to advocate to make this a reality. We know that the biggest cause of food insecurity is low income. So, addressing food insecurity must help ensure that all people have sufficient income.
Today we have an opportunity to advocate for sufficient incomes for all. Ontario Basic Income Network and Coalition Canada for Basic Income have collaborated on a briefing note to be presented to MPs to help them understand and appreciate the importance of addressing food insecurity through an evidence-based approach to income security: a Basic Income Guarantee (BIG). According to the document, “BIG is a regular payment, made to people who need it, distributed through the tax system. It provides enough money so that people can meet their basic needs regardless of their employment status.”
It’s time to stop waiting for some vague Until and to start seeing that now is the time to act by taking steps towards a food-secure country for all. Can you envision a future where all people have the means to feed themselves? Are you ready to take a step towards making it happen? If you are ready to act now, add your name as someone who supports a policy which has shown actual results in addressing food insecurity in Canada.
- Mary Anne Martin