Ways to build a better Ontario
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:
Invest in affordable housing
Housing is the single largest expense for most households. Surveys of food bank clients found that 1 in 5 respondents skipped meals to pay rent, and 60% have less than $100 left each month after paying for housing and utilities. This leaves very little left over for other necessities like food.
To address food insecurity, particular attention should be paid to renters, as 86% of food bank visitors rent their home, a rate nearly three times higher than the general population. However, affordable rental housing is in short supply across the province: an analysis of average rental costs in communities across the province shows that average rent is only affordable in 2 out of 100 cities and towns. There is a long wait list for social housing in every community in Ontario.
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.
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.