A future without hunger

Hunger in Ontario is not a consequence of a lack of food, but a symptom of poverty. To end hunger, we must come together to create policy solutions that alleviate poverty.

Ways to build a better Ontario

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Food banks provide a wide range of emergency and support services to those facing hunger; however, they are not a solution to food insecurity or poverty. Food insecurity and poverty are complex issues that can only be solved by good public policy and adequate support programs that ensure all Ontarians have the income they need to afford their basic necessities each month.

Ways in which the Government of Ontario can take immediate action in addressing food insecurity and poverty in our province include:

Improve Ontario’s social assistance programs

People who rely on Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program live in poverty. The income assistance provided by either program falls significantly below what is needed for a basic standards of living, with recipients experiencing a shortfall between $470 - $1,079 every month. When adults and children are struggling with hunger and the stress of not having enough, it becomes even more difficult to secure stable employment, excel at school, or participate in the community. Providing social assistance recipients with enough income, as determined by the Market Basket Measure, for a basic standard of living is essential to moving the needle on poverty.

We recommend: Aligning social assistance rates and benefits with the cost of living; Simplifying rules and eligibility criteria; automatic enrolment in support top-ups or additional benefits; and the elimination of financial penalties and claw backs on earned income.

Invest in affordable housing

Near 90% of those who access food banks are rental or social housing tenants who spend the majority of their monthly income on rent. This leaves very little income for other necessities like heat, hydro, transportation, and food. In order to offset these expenses, many visitors to food banks report incurring increased debt to help pay for month necessities as well as choosing to go without food in order to pay their bills.

We recommend: Investing in the construction and repair of social and supportive housing; Expanding the Canada-Ontario’s housing benefit; Strengthening housing and rental laws; and Providing rent relief to low-income tenants facing eviction due to COVID-19

Build a stronger workforce

A low unemployment rate is a good metric for assessing what percentage of the province’s total labour force is unemployed; however, this metric does not speak to the quality of the jobs that people are occupying. As of 2019, Ontario had the highest proportion of minimum wage workers in Canada; and, in the last four years alone, Ontario’s food banks have seen a 44% increase in the number of people with employment accessing their services. In order to build our province’s resilience and strengthen Ontario’s workforce, simply connecting people to jobs will not be enough. Workers need to have access to stable employment that provides a living wage, as well as paid sick days, and proper support through worker programs like WSIB.

We recommend: Developing and protecting labour laws that benefit workers; Enhancing worker support programs; Expanding the LIFT credit and eliminating earned-income clawbacks from government support programs; and Removing the barriers women face when entering or reentering the workforce.

Put people at the centre

Ontarians living in poverty are the experts on the challenges that they face and the ones that will be most impacted by changes or enhancements to provincial policies and programs. Including the perspectives of people living in poverty and/or those with lived experience is therefore essential to investments and policies meet the needs of those they are intended to assist.

We recommend: Ensuring that the voices of people with lived experience are at the table and that their insight is used to guide decision-making processes; and Passing Bill 60: Social Assistance Research Commission.

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