All Canadians Have a Right to Food
It's a big week for food security in Canada -- not only did Food Banks Canada launch their annual Hunger Awareness Week, but the United Nations Special Rapporteur http://www.srfood.org/ on the Right to Food arrived as well. Both events highlight the growing problem of hunger in Canada and help draw attention to the root cause of food insecurity: lack of income.
Hunger Awareness Week http://hungerawarenessweek.ca/home asked Canadians to "Give it Up" for hunger, reminding us that almost 900,000 people http://foodbankscanada.ca/getmedia/dc2aa860-4c33-4929-ac36-fb5d40f0b7e7/HungerCount-2011.pdf.aspx use food banks monthly -- a number that has grown since the beginning of the recession in 2008. While this number is shockingly high, the total only reflects the one in four http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/opinion/its-time-to-close-canadas-food-banks/article2106989/ Canadians that use this service. As people challenge themselves to 'give up' a food item they enjoy, they should think beyond food banks and consider the reason people go hungry: they can't afford food.
People living with low-income -- whether from paid employment, social assistance or both -- are forced to do more with less money. The majority of people living in poverty are employed, with 25 per cent of Canadians working low wage jobs and earning less than about $13 an hour http://www.campaign2000.ca/reportCards/national/2011EnglishRreportCard.pdf . This is a rate that will barely keep individuals out of poverty, and it highlights the fact that this is not about accessing food, but rather having the means to purchase it.
Even Food Banks Canada http://foodbankscanada.ca (FBC) has acknowledged this issue in their 2011 Hunger Count http://www.foodbankscanada.ca/getmedia/34ebd534-14db-4bed-96d2-4fcadd5d9a33/HungerCount-2011-web-print-friendly.pdf.aspx?ext=.pdf report stating, "Low income, whether in the short or long term, is at the root of the persistent need for charitable food assistance in Canada." Food banks had never been seen in Canada before the 1980s and when introduced in 1981http://edmontonsfoodbank.com/about/history/ were intended as an emergency measure only, and certainly not as a long-term solution to address hunger. The Canadian Association of Food Banks (the precursor to FBC) had a three year mandate when they were first established, but continued when it was clear hunger in Canada was not going away.