Food Insecurity: Let’s Continue the Conversation about Basic Income Supports

The Calgary food bank website states that everyday they get more than 250 phone calls on their food hamper request line.  I am really surprised that we continue to have so many people requesting such a basic necessity.  People know that the food bank is their last source for food.  It means they have already asked family and friends for help.  They probably have no money, they may not know when they will be able to afford groceries or they know they have to wait another month before the next payday.  Another concern about calling the food bank is trying to find a ride or getting help to take the food home on transit.  Some people are able to get local organizations to deliver the groceries but they will have to wait days or even longer to get the food.  Families may turn to less nutritious options to feed everyone.

The Calgary food bank is wonderful.  They make sure that families have enough food for the week, including milk, bread, vegetables, meat and canned goods.  The difficult part is that families may not be able to use all the food; whether they have allergies, food intolerances and/or dietary restrictions.  Also, some of the food may be past the best before date or the family may not have enough fridge/freezer space for all the food.  As well, a family can only request 7 hampers per year.  Food insecurity remains a concern in our community.  Not to mention that healthy food is still so expensive.

So what are some solutions?  Last week, I attended a talk about basic income which was very informative.  Limited examples of this model include the Alberta Child Benefit, Canada Child Tax Benefit and Guaranteed Income Supplement for Seniors.  We need to continue this conversation so that everyone has the income they need.  People may access local non profit organizations or churches for help.  However, it’s more empowering to have the ability to choose your own groceries and to prepare your own meals.  The Alex Community Food Centre will be opening in Forest Lawn in the fall and will give people more choices.  Another solution is to volunteer at a community garden or grow your own vegetables (depending on the weather).

How else do I know that people need better access to nutritious food?  Whenever I volunteer at events that serves food, many times we actually run out of food.  If I serve vegetables or fruit, they are always very popular.  The breakfast and lunch programs at schools and other facilities continue to be very well utilized.  Families may need help with planning menus or meals that children can prepare.  I attended a conference last year where I heard about a University offering basic cooking classes to freshmen.  It was so popular that they were able to budget in a crockpot for each participant.  If people were given grocery store gift cards, they would be able to purchase healthy food and make meals that they know their whole family will enjoy.  Finally, remember that, sometimes, it takes a lot for someone to ask for help.

Pam Beebe, Indigenous Strategist, VCC


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