The following editorial discusses the follow up we did on Hunger Awareness Week at the beginning of May. You can read more about it in the post Hunger Awareness Week is Not About Hunger or in the coverage of our EPIC Movie Night in the Gazette’s article Food a human right, says medical officer of health.

 

No Ministry of Magic

By Patti Miller

On Tuesday, May 20th, 2014, Elizabeth Anderson, Peggy Nafziger and I went to Gary Schellenberger’s office.  Our goal was to deliver 156 letters signed by community members asking for a National Food Policy to alleviate food insecurity in this country.

Our federal representative in the House of Commons for the riding of Perth Wellington recounted tales of growing up near Sebringville and eating turnips that had been sent to the manure spreader because they were not the size prescribed by grocery stores.

When challenged by Anderson that a ministry for food should be considered, Mr. Schellenberger claimed that such a ministry would require staffing and administration – things that cost dearly.

As we were leaving Mr. Schellenberger assured us that although he could not present the letters from his constituents on the floor of the House of Commons, he would send it to the ministry.  I couldn’t resist.  I had to ask him. 

“Which ministry, sir?”

Now please allow me to interject another little bit of that day up to this point.  I had attended the Festival City Rotary Club’s breakfast meeting as a guest.  A young girl who had attended a conference in Ottawa was telling of her adventures at the parliament buildings and the House of Commons and as she ended her presentation she quipped that she had located Gary Schellenberger’s  seat to which my friend leaned in close and stage whispered  – someone better tell  Gary – he hasn’t found it yet.

And so it was with a decided smirk that I waited for his response to my question, “Which ministry, sir?”

He said that he didn’t know, but that he would find out and then send the letters along to that ministry.

It’s even money at this point between the department of sanitation (the round filing cabinet) and the ministry of magic.  

Food insecurity is no joke.  The amounts paid to social assistance recipients across the board is too low – whether it is Ontario Works, Ontario Disability Support Program, Canada Pension, Old Age Security  – it doesn’t matter which “ministry” signs your check – they are still not enough to make ends meet. 

And if you must sacrifice money from the portion of your check allotted to food to some other luxury like housing – then you eat less or you eat less well.  Sacrifices are made which can affect your health placing an even greater strain on an overburdened underfunded health care system

The economic landscape in Ontario has changed.  Our manufacturing jobs are gone, our factories are empty.  The Globe and Mail reports that 73 percent of respondents between 25 and 29 have not found full time work in their field.  There are not enough jobs for those who are willing and able to do them, so why the push to disentitle those on disability claims?  Why is someone on OW expected to live on less than someone on ODSP?  Why is the actual cost of housing not factored into their equations?

The mudslinging and negative advertising is nowhere more prevalent than the finger pointing and judging being propagated by a government that wants the masses fighting amongst themselves rather than joining together to fix the very real problems. 

Lack of money is not the only barrier to “good food” – and yes with more money this NEED too would be addressed, but it does need to be mentioned.  Food deserts are places where the only food available is sold in pre-packaged processed form.  Such a barrier does not exist to my knowledge in this area but transportation to and from the grocery stores or food banks for some is a major obstacle.  I will never forget the woman who could not accept a turkey at the local food bank even though she desperately loved turkey and could have made good use of the meat – she could not carry it home, so this too was denied her. 

My fellow Canadians, there is no ministry of magic.  This is just us.  Together we can make a difference, but we need to stand together to ensure that all Canadians have a right to good food.  Canada is a rich country; surely it can afford to feed its own people.