In 1989 NDP MP Ed Broadbent, now an Honorary Director of Canada Without Poverty, put forward a motion to end child poverty that was moved unanimously in the House of Commons. Today, on Hunger Awareness Day, we not only acknowledge that this momentous feat has yet to occur, but also that more children, and Canadians, are hungry and struggling with poverty.
According to Food Banks Canada, almost 900,000 Canadians visit food banks across the country each month in 2010. This is 9% higher than 2009, and 19% than 2000. Half of these visitors are families with children, and 38% alone are children and youth. This is an indication that the trend is moving in the wrong direction.
As part of their efforts to end hunger, Food Banks Canada has a dedicated website to Hunger Awareness Day that describes the purpose of this movement:
“Hunger Awareness Day is about raising awareness of the solvable problem of hunger in Canada. Food banks across the country hold events to tell the story of the work they do, and the stories of hungry Canadians assisted by food banks.”
Note the word ‘solvable’, and consider that with a more progressive tax system, including reversing corporate tax cuts, and an increased tax on incomes over $250,000, this is possible. Mr. Boardbent stated these points in an article marking the 20th anniversary of the motion to end child poverty. These ideas have also been lauded by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives in their recent 2011 Alternative Federal Budget.
Hunger is not an isolated issue – it is connected to inadequate housing, low-income, and poverty conditions. To end hunger there must be social policy change at the federal level that considers the needs of low-income individuals and families: housing, childcare, wages and income supplements, education, and health. The problems are complex and require a comprehensive poverty strategy in order to adequately address the root causes.
Today is a day to acknowledge current realities, and also consider the pathways to change.