This piece was originally published in The Toronto Star. To read the full piece, click here.

You cannot turn on the news without hearing that inflation rates are at crisis levels. In fact, a quick walk down the aisles of a grocery store paints a very troubling picture. What can we do to address the issues in the most effective way for those experiencing poverty?

We have seen that the current model of devolving responsibility for essential social services to charities does not work. It continues to stretch charities’ budgets razor-thin, and relies on the goodwill of individual donors to sustain operations. Governments need to step up before things get much, much worse.

It is evident that income-based, institutional interventions are transformative; they enhance individuals’ quality of life through a greater sense of agency, improved health outcomes and dignity.

Social assistance rates need to be in line with the cost of living in each city

Using data from the Daily Bread Food Bank, a report from the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary connected income levels to food bank usage. The report found a “$15 per month increase in Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) would be associated with 53,652 fewer visits to food banks annually in Toronto and 273,099 fewer visits across Ontario.”

A blanket rate across the province does not cut it when we see the highest impacts of the affordability crisis in our metropolitan centres.

Further, long-term funding needs to flow from government to local social service providers. Organizations doing the critical work of upholding the basic rights of their communities deserve to operate without the pressure of unsustainable financial models. Charities like ours are expected to do more with less, while government funding has long dried up. As inflation also impacts our supporters, we have seen our donations under $1,000 decline sharply. When higher bills hit the donors, charities are left to respond to a demand far exceeding their capacity.

67% of our service users are living on social assistance below Ontario’s poverty line . They must choose between food, rent, medicine or transportation. In Toronto, a rent increase of $30 per month would lead to 73,776 more visits to food banks annually; that is not something food banks can handle. We see more seniors, newcomers, families and people with disabilities, many of whom have never accessed our services before.

Organizations like ours play an important role in creating vibrant communities. Our community members, staff, volunteers and donors cannot continue to bear the brunt of a deteriorating social safety net, insufficient wages and out-of-control food prices.

We need the government to step up, or we risk the inability to provide the essential services our community so desperately needs.

Written by our Director of Development and Communications, Maria Rio and Marie-France Roche, our Development Manager.

The support of our donors is exclusively what keeps our programs running. Help us to provide our neighbours with healthy food and to run our vital community-building programs throughout the year:


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