Apr 11, 2024

Daily Bread CEO testifies at House of Commons

On April 11, Neil Hetherington, CEO of Daily Bread Food Bank, testified at the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance to discuss the state of food insecurity in Canada and solutions moving forward.

Prior to the pandemic, Daily Bread would serve approximately 65,000 clients per month. The pandemic doubled this number to a crisis level of 120,000, and finally, this past February this number hit a record high rate of 301, 354 clients served. Each month in Toronto, there are now 13,000 individuals who make use of a food bank for the first time.

Nationally, this growth has increased by 30% year over year, while the rate of growth in Ontario is 40%.

In his testimony Neil noted that, “The underlying reasons for this are complex, but I can summarize them in one sentence: People do not have enough income to afford the most basic costs of living.

With food insecurity and poverty on the rise, Neil noted three actions to address the challenges that individuals who experience hunger are facing.

Supporting those on fixed incomes:

The majority of food bank clients rely on fixed incomes, primarily from social assistance. Ontario’s two social assistance programs, Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), leave people living in deep poverty. Research evidence shows that income support programs, like the Canada Child Benefit and senior’s benefits have reduced the severity of food insecurity in Canada for these groups.

Daily Bread Food Bank has been part of a coalition of over 40 organizations advocating for a fully funded Canada Disability Benefit (CDB), which has the potential to reduce poverty among Canadians with disabilities.

A recent study conducted by Angus Reid Institute in partnership with Daily Bread and Disability Without Poverty, found that 91% of Canadians support the CDB. Income supports like the Canada Disability Benefit can greatly reduce the severity of food insecurity, going long way in ensuring people can live a life of dignity and meet their most basic needs.

Developing affordable housing:

Lack of affordable housing is a driver of both poverty and food insecurity. The majority of food bank clients in Toronto are paying more than half of their income on housing, putting them at high risk of homelessness. This leaves nothing for food and other expenses.

During his testimony, Neil said that, “The fall economic statement presented opportunities for investment and recent announcements preceding [the federal budget announcement on April 16] recognize the challenge that we are in nationally in housing and seek to remedy that.”

Reducing precarious employment:

One in three food bank clients in Toronto have employment as their primary income source. Most of these individuals are working on precarious jobs with low wages and little to no benefits.

“The government announced a process to reform [Employment Insurance], but we have not yet seen the outcomes. As a result, thousands of Canadians continue not to qualify because the program does not reflect the modern reality of work such as gig work and self-employment”, said Neil during his testimony. Daily Bread continues to advocate for a livable wage, paid sick days, portable employment benefits, and protections for low-income workers.

“In summary, solving poverty is complex. However, the good news is that we know exactly what will work. Depending on the design of the Canada Disability Benefit we have it within our power as a nation to eliminate poverty and food insecurity among Canadians with disabilities. I implore your to seize this opportunity”, said Neil in his testimony summary.

Learn more at fundthebenefit.ca

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