How many of us have seen food banks open their doors in our home towns? The reasons may differ by region -- the decline of manufacturing in Ontario and Quebec, fisheries in Atlantic Canada, farming in the prairies, forestry in the northwest -- but the overall reality is similar across the country. The economic landscape is fundamentally changed.
While the old adage tells us to waste not and want not, all too often surplus food ends up uneaten. Canada's mounting amount of wasted food is costing consumers and cutting into the country's overall economy output. Canada's economy is losing the equivalent of two per cent of its entire GDP each year to food waste.
Without money, it would be nearly impossible for food banks to provide clients with a healthy dinner plate. That's because essentials like pasta, soup and beans pour in, while equally important items like fresh produce, meat and dairy items are in shorter supply. Financial donations create flexibility.
Another issue food banks are dealing with is gauging the nutritional value of their donations and purchases. In order to address "hunger," the nutrient value of food must be analyzed. Often, government assistance doesn't cover the much needed vitamin supplements that this underserved population needs to boost nutrition and health.
At the provincial level, the Ontario Association of Food Banks strongly believes that the provincial government can and should take a more active role in tackling the root causes of hunger. This Hunger Awareness Week, ask yourself: who do you think uses food banks, and more importantly, why? Together, we can take a stand against hunger and poverty.
So for those salivating for a Toronto reset, I suggest a more modest brand refresh -- one where an asterisk is added to our otherwise great city. Here we can note our city's mind-numbing congestion, condo lined waterfront, failed Olympic bids, overpriced housing and political mismanagement. All this without clouding the overwhelmingly positive attributes this city has to offer.
In their 2012 Report, Food Banks Canada stated that in March 2012 alone, almost 900,000 Canadians turned to food banks. Canada needs to tackle hunger directly, rather than continue to pay out year after year for its long-term consequences. Hunger is toxic for those living through it, and it is harmful to Canada as a whole.
On October 17, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, women who have a lived experience of poverty spoke to a group of parliamentarians, social justice organizations and community members at the Conference Centre in Ottawa to make sure a clear message was heard: poverty still exists, and there is no reason for this in a country as wealthy as Canada. A crucial next step is to develop a federal plan to end poverty.