Ottawa, July 12 (IPS) – Lisa Argiropulos, a single mother of two teenage sons and a resident of Ottawa, Ontario, has been facing food insecurity since 2016, following an outbreak of food insecurity. The accident left her in chronic pain and disability.
Unable to continue working, Argiropulos had to live off disability payments and child benefits. However, her income is not enough to provide for herself and her family, especially at today’s prices.
“With prices going up, it’s an extraordinary thing. I had a hard time before. Now it’s ten times worse. By the time I paid all the bills, utilities and any other expenses, what was left for food was barely enough. It’s really, really hard. You always have to look elsewhere for help, weekly, monthly,” says Argiropulos.
In Canada, the cost of food has increased 9.7 percent from April 2021 to April 2022. High prices of other necessities, such as gas and housing, has also contributed to food insecurity; people have to spend more of their income on those expenses, which leaves less for food.
Food insecurity occurs when people do not have reliable access to nutritious food. Before the pandemic, it was affected about 1.3 million people in Ontario – the most populous province of one of the wealthiest countries in the world.
“That really presents a challenge for a lot of people in Ontario. The reality is not everyone can afford all of your basic needs in a month,” said Amanda King, Director of Government Networks and Relations at Feed Ontario.
Today, the total number of people living with food insecurity there is a greater possibility because inflation has put more people in precarious positions.
“Food insecurity is something invisible. That’s why it’s really important to emphasize the data and statistics we have. If you look at a classroom, you can’t immediately determine which child didn’t eat breakfast that morning. Statistically, you know there are kids in that class who haven’t had breakfast yet,” said King.
To get there, Argiropulos sought more support from the local food bank to stretch its food budget. For her, it’s the Barrhaven Pantry, where she’s allowed to visit once a month. While she received a package of food intended to last seven days, it happened quickly in her family of three, with her growing sons.
Food banks are also feeling the inflationary stress now.
The use of food banks has increased significantly over the past few months due to more and more people in need. According to CEO George Macdonald, the Barrhaven Food Cupboard has seen usage increase 130% since last year. Ottawa Food Bank CEO Rachael Wilson noted that they served 52,000 meals across their network in March. Last year, they served 44,000 on average a month.”
Higher food and gas prices mean it becomes more expensive for food banks to operate. Before the pandemic, the Ottawa Food Bank was spending C$1.7 million (about $1.31 million) annually on food. This year, Wilson told IPS it is preparing to spend more than $4.5 million CAD ($3.49 million).
While both Wilson and Macdonald have met the need, they note that further increased use of food banks could affect their ability to serve their communities.
“It was very stressful. Knowing how we prepare the food on the shelves on a daily basis is just a daily stress right now. To date, there has not been a case where we have not been able to provide the necessary food. But honestly I don’t know how sustainable it is for us to continue to meet needs at this level without major change,” Wilson said.
The Ottawa Food Bank, which supports 112 smaller food programs, relies heavily on charitable donations. It does not receive regular funding from the provincial or federal government.
The current level of food insecurity has prompted calls to change the way policymakers deal with the problem.
Government interventions on food insecurity are primarily intended to support the operation of food banks. The relief for the food insecurity of the provinces during the pandemic was indirect: more than 1 billion CAD has been allocated in the Social Services Relief Fund (SSRF) (approximately $775 million) to help cities and social service providers, including food banks.
While useful for short-term relief, Tim Li, research coordinator at PROOF – a program from the University of Toronto working to identify policy solutions to hunger – explains that these interventions This does not help address the causes of food insecurity.
“Hunger is not just not having food. It’s about everyone’s financial situation. It is about poverty, lack of income and income security. We see no action taking that approach in addressing income gaps to reduce food insecurity. It shows that the safety net is not as strong as we thought. “
Instead of increasing aid to food banks, PROOF favors income-based solutions, such as expanding social assistance and increasing the minimum wage. Such moves will require action mainly at the provincial level, as provinces are responsible for both areas.
“Our research really shows policymakers are dealing with minimum wages, social benefits, and all the different policies that exist in their toolbox, whether it’s taxes. income, child benefits. There is a lot that public policymakers can do. Li said.
More than 60 percent According to a 2018 study, people dependent on social assistance in Canada are food insecure.
This total is believed to be larger than it is today, since most social assistance programs are not measured for inflation. This results in support payments becoming less and less valuable each year as prices rise, potentially leading to more people falling into food insecurity.
Argiropulos is also asking for income-based solutions. She told IPS that fully supporting herself and her family was simply beyond her capabilities.
About a year ago, her doctor suggested she apply for food assistance for people with dietary needs because of medical conditions. This grant is part of the Ontario Disability Assistance Program (ODSP), and Argiropulos is eligible because she has type two diabetes.
However, she was shocked when she realized how much she was eligible for.
“He sent, and just needed, an extra $35 per month for type two diabetes. I had gestational diabetes during both my pregnancies with my children. I know that. I have met dieters. I know how you have to eat. I know about carbohydrates. I know about all of that. $35, it can’t even do it,” she said.
Argiropulos notes that the realities of living on social assistance and facing food insecurity need to be emphasized.
“I’ve been working all my life, and I’ve fallen on bad times. And food, no one should refuse food. We live in a country where we should not be denied food. When you are forced to rely on the system, there is no fighting for food. It just shouldn’t. “
Report of the United Nations Office IPS
© Inter Press Service (2022) – All rights reservedOrigin: Inter Press Service