The Food Bank‘s, (Ottawa) website says it “provides 40,000 people each month with emergency food assistance, 40% of whom are children.” Food banks are now worried because rising food and gas prices are making it harder to keep their shelves stocked.
The whole food bank concept makes me crazy. Food banks, care packages, soup kitchens were meant as stop-gap emergency measures — for disaster relief… for war-torn countries…in places or times when food was scarce. So, how did they get to be permanent fixtures in Canada? Last time I checked, there was plenty of food around.
Mega-grocery stores are everywhere, groaning with edibles. There are markets, natural food stores, straight-from-the-farm home delivery services, restaurants, cafeterias, coffee shops, pubs, snack bars – food all over the place. All you need to get some is some money.
So why have we established such inefficient, costly, unpredictable systems of food distribution to people who don’t have enough money to get food? Food banks have become industries with paid employees and warehouses and transport trucks and associations with websites. All that costs money. It’s nuts.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to just give people the money they need to buy food?
I guess we think that if the poor have any more money they’ll just blow it on booze and drugs. Maybe they can’t be trusted to feed themselves and their children? Is that why we’ve benevolently chosen to give them food instead? And why do we want to put people into such a humbling situation where they have to line up for a crate of food – food that isn’t even of their own choosing.
To me one of the basic freedoms of being an uninstitutionalized autonomous adult is being able to choose the food I want to eat. Canada’s International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights commits this country, to ensuring “the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself/herself and his/her family, including adequate food, clothing and housing.”
It says nothing about letting volunteers and charities take care of the food issue so that we can all believe we’re doing something that’s solving the poverty problem in this country. As long as the food banks are chugging along, we have no reason to seriously address the social and economic reasons for poverty.
We all feel virtuous by tossing a few cans of beets into the food drive bin. And while it’s real nice that people want to help, we’re also perpetuating the problem.
People who can’t afford to buy food shouldn’t have to depend on our leftovers to survive. It grinds them even further into dependence, humility, hopelessness. People need to be able to get their own money to buy their own food. They need education and/or employment and/or affordable housing and/or affordable daycare and/or adequate social assistance.