Editorial column: No one should have to go hungry

Food banks should not be necessary in a rich country like Canada

Pirjo Raits Hard Pressed

The other day I was invited to the local food bank in Sooke to see how much food was collected after a short call out in the newspaper for donations.

The mound of non-perishable food was astounding and it was evidence of the generosity of people in the community. In small communities we actually see the people who need help. They are not far removed from our visuals and we cross paths with them frequently.

Sooke is no different than any other small community across the Island or across the country for that matter. There are poor people who live here. Poor — not less fortunate, under-privileged, or low income — just plain down and out poor.

While some may be poor because they don’t or can’t work, there are many others who are poor because they are under-educated and can’t find those elusive jobs out there that pay a decent living wage. It’s not entirely their fault, they have failed in some way to find that lucky break or lucky attitude that sends them on their way to the top of the pile.

We are luckier here than in the U.S. because we have a reasonable social safety net. We can get health care without going bankrupt and we can eke out a living even on social assistance or unemployment insurance. But it isn’t enough — thus the need for food banks. Food banks are shameful. In this resource rich country we live in, no one should have to go begging at a food bank.

When you see folks drinking $5 coffees and averting their eyes to the homeless and destitute, something is sadly out of whack. When people’s conversation turns to the inane – reality shows which are actually so far from reality that it is laughable; over-paid sports figures; stars dancing with each other, or even home decorating shows, it becomes evident that our society is in trouble. It’s like a mass opiate. Fill people’s heads with nonsense and they won’t know or care about what is really going on. We have come to a point where we have accepted food banks as being normal. When people are lining up to get something to eat, this signals a disfunction.

Food banks have been around for a long time, in times of economic wealth as well as downturns in the economy. If it was just now when things are a “bit slow” it would be one thing, but food banks are also there in times of affluence.

We need a little more compassion – charity does begin at home. There are so many ways one can help and it is not just about money, although that helps a lot.

Amazing volunteers give of their time and expertise, donations come from you and me thereby letting the government off the hook. Sure there are people who abuse the system whether it is a Food bank or the government but most people who come with hat in hand are hungry, or their kids are hungry.Until there is a will to fix the bigger societal problems, food banks will be necessary. No one should be going hungry.

Talking to one volunteer at the Sooke Food Bank, she said that they receive absolutely no government funding of any kind. Those legislators who make the decisions should spend some time volunteering at a food bank. Maybe then it would warm their hearts and open the collective wallet and give more to those who honestly need it. Oh, and add to the list the over-burdened and under-funded/non-funded crisis centres. You get the picture.