Food For Thought


There will be some people who won’t see a table like this over the Christmas holidays. This includes, shockingly, those who are gainfully employed. Source: Wikimedia Commons Image Library, with all rights given to the owner of the image. ()

Many look to the unemployment rate as an indicator of how well our war on poverty is progressing.

The unemployment rate is a percentage of the labour force that is actively seeking work. It does not track those who have given up. It does not track those who are paid “under the table”. It does not track underemployment. It does not track employment disparity (where individuals are working either full- or part-time but not in the field he or she is trained in).

In short, it makes the erroneous assumption — a somewhat dangerous one at that — that to be simply working is to be okay. As long as one is earning a paycheque, the necessities of life — rent and food — are easily covered.

As reported in the following article, that reasoning is not necessarily a slam-dunk.

Despite having a job, citizens are going to food banks because apparently the paycheque is not enough to cover the grocery bills.

I’ve heard it argued that this is because people can simply walk in and get free food. On the surface, the reasoning seems sound: in the Region of Waterloo and also in the Greater Toronto Area, you don’t need to prove you are low income to access food banks.

In fact, I just finished having a phone conversation with someone about that very topic. Apparently a resident in her building goes to a food bank yet can afford an apartment of $1300 a month, drives a car, and has a watch that does far more than tell the time.

I don’t even have a watch that just tells the time. I consider it a superfluous expense. To me, food, transit and my teeth are more important.

Getting back on track, if this argument WAS true, the food bank system would be raided to chronic levels of scarcity. There are stock shortages, yes, but not like locusts going through a crop field.

No, the problem here is the assumption — by those who think all you got to do to keep out of poverty “is get off your lazy ass and find a job” — is that things don’t go up in price over time.

The average worker’s income has not kept up in lockstep with ever increasing costs, such as rent/mortgage , grocery, transit, gas, medical, dental, and prescription glasses. In the case of some individuals, income has not gone up, period, for a number of years. I recall during my IT career there was one year at Grolier Limited and two years at SANYO Canada where I didn’t even get a cost of living raise.

The minimum wage rate in most provinces of Canada have barely budged over the past decade. Ditto for social assistance and disability as well — in some cases, qualifications for receiving both have been tightened and coverage periods have been shortened in the name of government austerity.

Look, I won’t deny the fact there are people who cheat food banks. I even stated during my aforementioned phone conversation with someone they really should screen better to block the cheaters.

Having said this, there’s a fair argument to be made that there’s indeed a wealth distribution problem, and part of that problem concerns the ability of the working poor and the unemployed to afford food to put on the table. If there is even one employed person who is going to food banks because it’s just not enough, that’s one person too many in my book.

Thanks for reading!

David.

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