The Spectator’s view: Food banks, sadly, are a necessary evil

Food banks; we can’t do without them, but they are not part of the poverty solution.

Food banks are an essential component of life for many Hamiltonians. But it wasn’t supposed to be that way.

The Hamilton Community Foundation found that in March this year, more than 17,000 people — at least 6,000 of whom are children — accessed food banks. More than 75 per cent also rely on Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program.

That means food security is a serious issue for many in our community. It means people trying to live on social assistance do not have enough money for food. It means some people who work for a living do not earn enough to buy food. In 2013, in a good-sized city in a developed country, that should not be the norm.

Poverty is the root cause of hunger. A new report from Community Foundations of Canada makes it clear that fighting the symptom — hunger — is not alleviating the cause — poverty.

Food banks, community kitchens, community gardens, snacks and meals in schools — all these things are necessary if we are to even try to maintain the health of our community.

We must not stop doing them. But we must also realize that such efforts take the pressure off senior governments to come up with real ways to substantially reduce poverty.

Senior governments must find ways to reduce precarious employment, underemployment and youth unemployment. Living wage and increased social assistance rates are needed.

People must be able to buy food for themselves and their families. Period.