First let me say this: what I am suggesting is a mitigation tool, not a solution. The province sets the Ontario Works (OW) and Ontario Disability Support (ODSP) amounts. As a City Councillor, there is only so much we can do in terms of poverty. In my experience, “being poor is a full time job”. It demands constant focus on the “struggle and juggle” to survive. It drains you. My plan is to help those in Ward 2, who struggle with food insecurity, by reducing the amount of time required by them to rectify the food imbalance, the time they must travel to get food assistance. That way they will have more time and energy left to spend on the other necessities of life.
Part of the struggle includes sourcing food to ensure food security for yourself and/or your family. This doesn’t mean just going to the grocery store for those on OW, ODSP or other fixed limited incomes. These days, seniors and even the working poor require food assistance. Many people now use food hampers to fill in the gaps. For some people the gaps are a monthly occurrence.
Ward 2 has a broad income range. Part of this range includes a large number of individuals that require food bank use to make ends meet, yet Ward 2 does not have a single food bank.
In Kitchener and Waterloo, we have developed a fairly solid food support network. Many churches and some community organization options have sprung up to offer help to those who are hungry. In this region, we recognize that the struggle is real and we empathize with those who experience it. Unfortunately, none of these solutions solve the poverty issue. We are not making headway doing it this way, but people need to eat, so these services continue to be vital to the survival of many, and as such, they are necessary. So, let’s improve them by expanding them with satellite locations. I have been a vocal advocate for the need for free transit for those with low incomes since 2015. Individuals experiencing poverty can access the main food bank on Guelph Street or a church in their neighborhood. The Guelph Street food hamper location is not easy to get to and the bus that used to stop in front of it was discontinued, making it harder for those with disabilities to access it. People find it hard to get there and even harder to get back home with the food. They might give you a bus ticket to get home, but you have to get there yourself, often by foot. If we must make hungry people pay for the bus, then we need to make food banks more accessible by bringing them to the people.
If elected to City Council I would like to focus on this issue, by working to bring a form of satellite food hamper access to those in Ward 2. I will collaborate with local food sources to develop a weekly local pick up option and I will continue to advocate for transportation assistance. Until we resolve the cause, which is poverty, the need for food bank use will continue, so it’s important that we ensure the availability of such resources for all who need them. It could be your neighbor, your Aunt, or even you that need it. In a time of crisis, we can all appreciate the need to allow a person the comfort of knowing they can be fed, the relief that such knowledge offers them, and the strength that helps to carry a person through.