Did you know that last March, 867,948 Canadians stood in line at a food bank?
That’s nearly one million Canadians who either can’t or don’t know how to take care of themselves, and the number is rising.
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One in 10 of those people were there for the first time, and that’s 28 per cent higher than 2008.
This in a country where people are giving each other cars for Christmas.
It’s easy to blame the victim. If we didn’t just give away free food, these people would get off their duffs PDQ and go out and work for their daily bread. We’re just encouraging them, right?
Wrong. More than one-third of the people in the lineup were younger than 18. Are we going to tell them to quit school and get a job so they can pay for their meals?
That would be reverse social engineering: Let’s see how many social and economic refugees we can create, and then see how they cope in an adult world. Even Stephen Harper can probably understand that’s not a great idea.
Yes, food banks foster an unhealthy dependence on handouts. But the alternative — malnutrition, starvation — is really unhealthy, too. And how many of those people would rather have enough to eat, a nice warm roof over their heads and meaningful employment? Show of hands, please.
Clearly, the system is broken. As in the U.S., the disparity between rich and poor is growing. Here in B.C., the provincial government just gave everyone a 15 per cent income tax break while keeping the minimum wage at eight bucks an hour, which is a modern form of slavery.
Try feeding a family on $350 a week when a single loaf of bread costs $3.50. For those people, 15 per cent of nothing is still nothing. If you’re rich, it’s a holiday in Florida.
When one in 34 people has to endure the shame of standing in line for a handout to get enough to eat, how many others are hanging on by their fingernails? How big is this problem anyway?
And what are we going to do about it? We can keep giving cans of Spaghettios to the food bank, which is better than nothing, or we can actually raise the minimum wage and increase job training programs.
Or we could just go ahead and spend $16 billion on a bunch of F-35 stealth fighter jets and to hell with a bunch of hungry kids.
There’s no such thing as a free lunch, right?
Paul Sullivan is a Vancouver-based journalist and owner of Sullivan Media Consulting; firstname.lastname@example.org.