1. Do not give anything you would not want to eat. Odds are that no one else wants to eat it, either. Grocery stores donate enough dented cans and torn cardboard boxes to cover the “food in scary-looking packages” base. If you wouldn’t pick it up off the supermarket shelf, don’t put it in the bin.
2. Don’t give stupid things. I once received an immense tub of candied fruitcake fruit from a food bank. When I eventually ran out of everything else and ended up eating some of it, I thought, “I am so poor, I’ve been reduced to eating other people’s rejects.” Some food is just too horrible to wish on anyone else; throw it out instead.
3. Consider giving food that can be eaten without cooking. When I was homeless, I didn’t carry my microwave around. Even living indoors, people have a hard time cooking if their landlord won’t fix the broken stove or the power company just shut off the electricity again. That’s why some agencies specifically offer no-cook food bags. Think granola bars, crackers (including cheese and cracker packages), spam, tuna, peanut butter, dry milk — anything you’d take on a long hike.
4. Don’t give perishable items. This is kind of obvious, but I’ve seen bread in a donation bin before. Many food pantries get day-old bakery items and imperfect produce from local merchants, and any perishable items you donate will probably be thrown out. Also, leave food in the original packaging. If it needs to be portioned out, volunteers at the food bank will take care of it.
5. Think about people with special dietary needs. It can be difficult for people with food allergies or celiac disease to find donated food they can eat. If you donate gluten-free food, wrap some masking tape around the package and use a marker to write “GLUTEN-FREE” in large print. Do the same for allergen-free items. Clear labeling will help food bank workers get the right food to the right clients. Make sure the food really is what your label says; if you have any doubt, skip it.
6. Make it easy to get at. Aseptic packaging and pouches are better than pull-top cans are better than traditional cans. It sucks even more than usual to be hungry if you’ve got a perfectly good can of food and no way at all to get the damned thing open. This is especially true for no-cook items; people who need these bags may not have can openers. Avoid glass jars, as they may break during processing.
7. Choose things that don’t require elaborate preparation. A boxed cake that says “just add water” is much better than one that wants milk, eggs, vegetable oil, and whatever else it can think of. Instant coffee is great; ground coffee doesn’t work for some people. Also good are multitaskers. Bisquick rocks.
8. Keep it simple. I got canned escargot once, which went right into the garbage. There’s probably someone out there who’d love to see a can of snails in their bag, but most people will react the way I did. Exotic foods are likely to be tossed and they take up space that could go to things people will actually eat.
9. Ask what’s needed. The volunteers at the food bank know what’s on the shelves and how far it will go. They may also want donations of non-food items, like soap, toilet paper, tampons/pads, diapers, and pet food because these can’t be purchased with food stamps. I never would have guessed that the food bank near my house needs plastic bags — clients are supposed to bring their own, but bags wear out and some people just don’t have one. Your local food bank probably needs things you’d never think to give them. Ask.
10. Check your grocery store. Many work with local food pantries to assemble bags of food you can buy and donate for 5 or 10 bucks. It’s a really easy way to give.
11. Be nice. Most of what food banks ask for is pretty basic, but I still remember how finding cookies in my bag could make me happy all day. When you’re too poor to feed yourself, small things take on more significance. Try to include at least one item you’d choose as a treat for your kids. Someone else’s kids will love you.
12. Consider donating cash. Large organizations can get way better deals on food than you can; with ten dollars, Feeding America can provide 90 meals to hungry people. You can give them money here
The Owen Sound Salvation Army’s annual Thanksgiving Food Drive has seen an “unprecedented” drop in the amount of food collected this year.
During the drive, which wrapped up Monday, under 10,000 pounds of food was collected, well below the organization’s goal of 28,000 pounds.
“It is probably an unprecedented drop for us,” Alice Wannan, the Owen Sound Salvation Army’s community and family services co-ordinator, said Tuesday morning. “Our goal was 28,000 and as of this morning we have hit 9,239.”
Wannan said the final numbers from the drive had been tallied up Tuesday morning and there were not yet any plans on how the Salvation Army intends to make up the shortfall.
As of Tuesday morning, Wannan says the Food Bank tallied only 9239 pounds of food.
The money collected from the kettle drive came in at $6979.13 — which equates to approximately 2791 pounds of food.
15 October 2013
A recent report by Bruce and Grey Counties summarizes the changes in job security and the impact of the rising cost of utilities.
It is estimated that about 1 in 3 Canadians live pay cheque to pay cheque and support service agencies in Bruce and Grey Counties find that most of the people they serve fall into this category. This means that a sudden change in a household’s situation, such as job loss, sickness or family break-up, can easily lead to housing affordability issues, including utility arrears.
Poverty is a root cause for this precarious position and the rising cost of utilities is yet one more issue that households in poverty have to cope with.
In Bruce and Grey Counties, the face of poverty is changing – service providers are starting to see seniors who are facing challenges and this was not the case in the past. While many seniors no longer have a mortgage on their home, many have modest, fixed incomes that are no longer sufficient to cover the rising costs of maintaining their homes, including utilities. Some seniors are particularly affected and anecdotal accounts have reported seniors going to bed in snow suits, using barbeques in their kitchens or reducing food purchases as a way to cope with utility costs. Many people refuse to ask for help with their utilities until the situation is quite dire, which in turn requires more community resources to resolve.
Recent data on service inquiries underscore the growing impact of utility issues. Community Connection/Ontario 211 receives calls and provides information on the services available in local communities. In 2012, the agency received a total of 2,401 call related to housing need from Grey County residents. Of these, 79% (1,895 calls) were related to utility arrears. Similarly, the agency received a total of 1,060 calls from Bruce County residents and 86% (919 calls) were related to utility arrears.
The issue of utility arrears affects the whole community and addressing it requires the collaboration of multiple stakeholders, including support service agencies, governments, utility providers and the clients themselves. Workshop participants proposed a number of solutions to help address the issue of utility arrears in Bruce and Grey Counties. The challenge ahead is how to advance possible solutions and make progress in alleviating utility arrears issues.
As part of the workshop, participants suggested possible next steps, including:
• Continue to meet on this issue and engage other stakeholders, such as the Legal Clinic and Poverty Task Force
• Increase political awareness on the issue
• Undertake educational activities for clients, including workshops and developing educational material
• Advocate for additional LEAP and CHPI funding
• Fundraise in the community
See the full report: Utilities Workshop – What We Heard Utility Workshop FINAL October 3, 2013
September 24, 2013 by Steve Barnes
Living on a low income affects people’s lives in many ways. It can mean having fewer opportunities to fully participate in important day-to-day activities like work and education. But living on a low income can also contribute to having poorer health than those who are better off. Poverty is a health issue, but poverty and poor health are not inevitable.
Ontario is currently working on a new five-year Poverty Reduction Strategy. This provides an excellent opportunity for the province to set out their concrete steps to reduce poverty in the short- and medium-term. A new Wellesley Institute report details how the province can improve the health of all Ontarians by reducing poverty. This is the first in a series of three blogs that set out how to create a Poverty Reduction Strategy that enables good health for all.
Ensuring that all Ontarians have adequate income is critical to achieving the Poverty Reduction Strategy’s goals. Employment should be a path out of poverty, but we know that many employed Ontarians are unable to afford basic necessities and that this can have negative health impacts.
One area that needs urgent attention is Ontario’s minimum wage. The minimum wage has been frozen at $10.25 since 2010 and there are a growing number of Ontarians who are ‘working poor’. Working poverty can have serious health impacts: Ontario data show that 66 percent of people who were working and made sufficient incomes reported their health as excellent or very good as compared with 49 percent of those who were working poor. Setting the minimum wage at 10 percent above the poverty line and indexing it to inflation will be good for the health of Ontarians.
The Ontario Employment Standards Act sets out the minimum terms and conditions that all employees can expect with regard to wages and other working conditions. These standards are important to all workers, but they are especially so for marginalized workers who are least able to negotiate fair wages and working conditions for themselves. Ensuring that people get paid for the work that they do, and that their pay is in compliance with the law is an effective way to reduce poverty. The Poverty Reduction Strategy should commit to improving enforcement and modernizing the Employment Standards Act.
Increasingly, Ontarians are finding themselves in low-wage work without security or benefits. Precarious forms of employment – like part-time, contract positions that do not offer benefits – are on the rise. Many of these jobs are in the service sector where it is very difficult for employees to choose to unionize and to keep their union once they have decided to join one. Ontario’s Labour Relations Act needs to be updated to reflect the changing structure of the labour market. The Poverty Reduction Strategy should update the Labour Relations Act to protect workers’ collective bargaining rights.
The Poverty Reduction Strategy also needs to address the adequacy of social assistance rates. Social assistance rates are currently set at levels that are too low for recipients to maintain good health. Last year, the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario recommended the creation of a Basic Measure of Adequacy that included the cost of food, clothing and footwear, basic personal and household needs, transportation, and shelter. The Poverty Reduction Strategy should commit to ensuring that social assistance rates are set at a level that allows recipients to afford these basic necessities of life.
These are four areas of action in which policy solutions to improve income security are well-know, actionable and supported by research. The new Poverty Reduction Strategy should take action in these areas to improve the incomes – and health – of all Ontarians.