Food bank users call for justice, not charity

About 80 low income people converged on the CBC on it annual food bank
day to say that they want governments to end the need for food banks by
raising welfare rates.

Organized by Raise the Rates, the group set up its tent on the CBC Plaza
and ran ‘Poor People’s Radio’ for an hour. The show was hosted by Lorna
Bird and Paul Taylor and gave people living in poverty an opportunity to
speak out.

Richard said, “I get discouraged when I go to the food bank; it is
downgrading and causes a loss of dignity. Right now we need food banks
because of poverty, but it has to change and welfare needs to be raised.”

“Having to wait in long lines is hard with arthritis and the food is not always
healthy. Feeling like I have to grovel to get food is degrading, and makes me
feel isolated” explained Marilyn.

Irene pointed out that, “Rent and food prices go up, but welfare rates haven’t
gone up for years, we are always struggling.”

“A lot of food I get is out-of date and no good for my allergies. My rent is
$450 a month so I have nothing left to buy food. I didn’t choose poverty; I
had a serious work accident so can’t work,” Rocky stated.

Peter said, “Government is shirking their responsibility by forcing people to
rely on charity to survive. Food is a right and people should have enough
money to buy good and healthy food.”

Stacey described her situation. “I’m a widow raising 2 children on welfare,
after rent we have only $416 for clothes, food and everything else, so I’m
forced to go to food banks. Standing in line with little kids waiting for food is
hard and then some of it is no use – a lot of it is outdated.”

Poor People’s Radio also had entertainment with songs from the Solidarity
Notes choir.

Raise the Rates had written to the CBC offering them the opportunity to
interview people who live in poverty and depend on Food Banks. Instead
the CBC ignored the poor people outside and their security guards tried to
harass them, while inside the feel-good programs continued.

This time of year there are many charities collecting food, presents and
money to give to ‘those less fortunate’. However in all this fund raising, the
experiences and voices of those people forced into poverty by government
policies are hardly ever heard. Why are the poor ignored?

The CBC Food Bank day will raise around $500,000 for the year. This is
a large sum for people to donate. Yet it is less than $5 a year, or a dime a
week, for every child in poverty in BC.

Food Banks were set up in 1982 as a ‘temporary’ measure. Surely, after 30
years, it is time to ask ‘Why have Food Banks been here so long?’ and ‘Why
is there so much need and poverty in BC?’. Food Banks temporarily treat
hunger, which is a symptom, the cause is poverty and Raise the Rates
wants treatment for the causes of poverty.

“We need food banks because people are starving, because people can’t
live on welfare”, said Jean Swanson of Raise the Rates, “but people should
not have to rely on charity for a basic human right like food.” She explained
that charity could not possibly provide enough to meet the needs of 178,000
people on welfare who are living way below the poverty line. “In addition,
charity comes with humiliation and shame. And charity helps make it seem
like our economic system is working ok when really people are starving.”

Bill Hopwood, Raise the Rates, pointed out that “Poverty cost BC $billions
every year and causes enormous unnecessary suffering. Raising welfare
rates would save money, give people justice and make BC a better place.
We wish the politicians would show one tenth the heart of the people of BC.”

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