By ANTONELLA ARTUSO,
Queen’s Park Bureau Chief
Ontario anti-poverty activists are pushing the provincial government to invest in a $100-a-month healthy food supplement for social assistance recipients.
At a “Put Food in the Budget” rally Thursday in front of the Queen’s Park building that houses the finance ministry, dozens of activists called for the measure to be included in the upcoming spring budget.
Anglican Bishop Linda Nicholls, speaking on behalf of 80 parishes representing over 30,000 Anglicans, said the deficit-plagued government doesn’t have to necessarily spend more but rather should adjust its priorities to ensure the poor have enough to eat.
An estimated 400,000 Ontarians rely on food banks, both those who are on social assistance and the working poor.
Nicholls said she was one of many prominent Ontarians who attempted to live on the “poverty diet” provided by food banks.
“I was shocked at how quickly within a day or two you began to feel not well. No fresh fruit. No fresh vegetables,” Nicholls said.
Tracy Mead, a social assistance recipient and member of the South Riverdale Health and Strength Action Group in Toronto, said the support payments don’t go far enough to buy fresh food.
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Laurie Monsebraaten Social Justice Reporter
Back in 1995, the opposition Liberals scorned the Mike Harris government’s so-called “welfare diet,” which purported to show that a single person on social assistance could eat for $90 a month.
Today that meagre Tory shopping list — which included pasta but no sauce and bread but no butter — costs $48 more. And yet since the Liberals took office in 2003, a single able-bodied person on welfare gets just $29 more in their monthly cheque for food.
“It’s no wonder food bank use in Ontario is soaring,” said social policy expert John Stapleton, who used the 1995 shopping list to buy the welfare diet at a Scarborough discount grocery store in January.
It is one more reason anti-poverty activists across the province are calling on Finance Minister Dwight Duncan to put a $100 monthly food supplement for welfare recipients in this spring’s provincial budget.
On Thursday, the Toronto Anglican Diocese is highlighting the need at a Queen’s Park rally. About 80 area parishes, representing more than 30,000 Anglicans, are backing the call for the Liberals to “put food in the budget.” They will be joined by food activists from other faiths and representatives from 30 other Ontario communities who are also concerned about rising hunger across the province.
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The day was wet but we were not discouraged! The finance minister, Dwight Duncan did agree to meet with a couple of people and has agreed to a future meeting with some key people from the Anglican church and Put Food in the Budget!
The Speakers at the Rally!
Michael Prue – NDP
Cheri DiNovo – NDP
Emma Frees – The Stop
Tracy Mead – Health and Strength Action Group
Elin Goulden – Anglican Church
The Rt. Rev. Linda Nicholls- Anglican Church
Rev Andrea Budgey- Anglican Church