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Loose Cannon: Hunger is a many-headed beast

Thursday, October 28, 2010

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  • Hunger is a beast with many heads, representing larger problems of social inequality, lack of affordable housing, unemploym

    Hunger is a beast with many heads, representing larger problems of social inequality, lack of affordable housing, unemploym

Written by Greg Beneteau

Thanksgiving, as its namesake suggests, is a holiday that encourages us to thank the people around us, and appreciate how much we’ve been given. For some families, this may mean dropping off a donation of non-perishable goods at a local food bank.

Yet hunger is a significant problem that strikes people in Canada and Guelph year-round. In many cases, it also impacts the most vulnerable people in our society.

The umbrella organization Canada Food Banks estimates that 37.2 per cent of clients who relied on food banks last year were under the age of 18. Strikingly, people with jobs constituted the second largest group of food bank clients, at 13.6 per cent, shattering the perception that food bank clients are people who can’t (or won’t) work.

Seniors, Aboriginal people, single-parent families and people living on social assistance are also over-represented at our countries’ food banks.

Even in a relatively affluent community such as Guelph, there are many people who deal with hunger issues on a daily basis. The Guelph Food Bank, operated by the charitable Spirit Wind Christian Centre, estimated that it served more than 15,000 clients from Guelph and surrounding regions last year, handing out a dizzying 960,000 pounds of food last year.

Accepting that hunger is a problem is the first step toward solving it. Unfortunately, hunger is a beast with many heads, representing larger problems of social inequality, lack of affordable housing, unemployment, and even the skyrocketing cost of post-secondary education. Dealing with only one of these problems will not slay the beast, so to speak.

The City of Guelph has taken the lead on some poverty-related issues. It developed an affordable housing strategy to ensure that the growing city continues to provide accommodations for people in different income brackets. Last year, it jointly launched the Guelph and Wellington Task Force for Poverty Elimination, which aims to identify shortfalls in city services.

Now that a mayor and council have been elected to serve out the next four years, it’s important that poverty issues continue to be given the attention they deserve by our municipal officials.

There remains much work to be done at the provincial and federal levels. Since last year, anti-poverty activists have been pressuring the McGuinty government to create a $100-per-month food supplement for people on Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program to help those living with  disabilities afford healthy food.

As many anti-poverty advocates will quickly point out, Canada is the only G-8 country without a national housing strategy – a failure of successive federal Liberal and Conservative governments to even begin to acknowledge that a problem exists.

At town hall meetings and at the a ballot box, students should press their elected officials on providing sustainable solutions to eliminate hunger in Canada.

At a local level, students can pitch in to support on-campus groups dedicated to combatting hunger.

The CSA Food Bank located in the Federal Annex Building is on such organization available to help. The volunteer-run program, which runs on a relatively shoestring budget, offers meal plans for people with allergies, religious dietary restrictions or who are vegetarian or vegan.

With Thanksgiving all but here and Christmas on the way, demand at food banks is on the rise and so is the need for public assistance. Local food banks would benefit from items such as dry pasta, rice, canned foods (specifically fish, meat, fruit and vegetables), baby supplies, hygiene products, foods that are low in sugar and salt and nut-free snacks.

If money is tight, volunteering is another great way to give back. Meal Exchange, the student-run organization that asks for your Meal Plan money periodically during the semester, will be hosting its annual Halloween Trick-or-Eat fundraising drive, collection thousands of pounds of food in a single evening.

Hunger is everyone’s problem – and everyone can be part of the solution. 

Greg Beneteau is Editor-in-Chief of thecannon. Loose Cannon publishes every Thursday in The Ontarion Student Newspaper at the University of Guelph.

The opinions posted on thecannon.ca reflect those of their author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Central Student Association and the Guelph Campus Co-op. We encourage all students to submit opinion pieces, including ones that run contrary to the opinion piece in question.

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