Poverty is the root cause of food insecurity. It is a public policy issue, requiring public policy solutions, and that is why advocacy is a core component of Daily Bread Food Bank’s work. Here’s a round-up of what we’ve been working on in the past few months to tackle food insecurity and poverty in our city.
Canada Disability Benefit
Close to half of food bank clients in Toronto have a disability. The Canada Disability Benefit (CDB) is a permanent, federal program that will provide income support to working age (18-64) Canadians living with disabilities. This is a historic opportunity to reduce, and even eliminate, poverty and food insecurity among Canadians with disabilities.
Daily Bread was proud to join disability advocates across Canada in advancing this important program. Our CEO, Neil Hetherington, testified before the Senate to underscore the importance of the CDB, providing context about the experience of food bank clients living with disabilities and recommendations for program design. These points were reiterated and elaborated upon in a policy submission.
Later, as the CDB ping-ponged between the House of Commons and Senate, we asked our community of supporters to take action. Over 1,400 letters were sent to party and house leaders urging them to pass the legislation before breaking for the summer.
Now that the bill has received Royal Assent, the government will soon begin developing regulations on important issues, such as the benefit amount, eligibility criteria, appeals mechanisms, and other important aspects of the Canada Disability Benefit.
We will continue to work with our sectoral partners while centering the voices of clients living with disabilities in our advocacy efforts for income-based solutions.
Canada Child Benefit
The Canada Child Benefit (CCB) is a monthly payment made to eligible families raising children under 18 years of age. It has proven instrumental in reducing the severity of food insecurity among families and children.
Talia Bronstein, VP of Research and Advocacy at Daily Bread, deputed at a Toronto Board of Health meeting about increased government funding for student nutrition programs, acknowledging that student nutrition programs can only go so far in preventing child hunger.
In partnership with Suman Roy, Board of Health member and CEO of Feed Scarborough, the Board successfully adopted a motion to advocate to the federal government for an increase to the CCB.
Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program
Ontario Works (OW) is a provincial program that provides financial assistance, health benefits and employment support to adults who are in financial need and are willing to pursue employment. The Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) is similar, but for adults living with disabilities, providing higher benefits and not requiring the pursuit of employment.
As they stand, the rates paid by either program are insufficient to bring recipients above the deep poverty line, particularly in the case of OW, where rates are not indexed with inflation.
Talia Bronstein, wrote an op-ed for TVO about the difficulties of living on OW, where critically low rates, barriers to employment and a precarious job market trap people in poverty.
Canadians continue to face high prices at the grocery store, with grocery inflation at 9.1% as of June. On March 20, Daily Bread’s CEO Neil Hetherington testified to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food on food inflation and its impact on food insecurity.
The committee recently released its findings, where it proposed recommendations to increase competition in the grocery sector to bring down prices. Neil’s testimony was referenced multiple times, specifically mentioning Canada’s human rights obligations with respect to the right to food.
In May, Neil was invited back to testify at the House of Commons about the proposed Grocery Rebate, which is a GST/HST credit top-up that provided low and modest-income households up to $234 for single Canadians and up to $467 for families of four.
Neil shared that the Grocery Rebate, while helpful, would not resolve food insecurity. Instead, he recommended addressing food inflation, stagnant incomes, and unaffordable housing.
Daily Bread plans to continue this momentum by urging the provincial government to adopt an official food insecurity strategy. You too can help. Click here to take action today!