Saanich backs initiative to reduce need for food banks

Saanich council has thrown its support behind an initiative that aims to completely end the need for food banks.

Saanich council has thrown its support behind an initiative that aims to completely end the need for food banks.

The goal of the proposed National Food Strategy is to work with the other levels of government to better plan and co-ordinate food security, as opposed to providing continual food charity, in hopes that would eliminate demand for food banks.

“It’s about making the best use of our resources. We’ve got farmers that are in the business of growing food, we’ve got lots of food in this country,” said Coun. Dean Murdock, former chair of the Healthy Saanich advisory committee. “It’s about putting it to best use and finding mechanisms at the disposal of government to make sure that healthy food gets in the hands of people who need it and can’t afford it.”

The National Food Strategy is a proposal from Faith in Action, a Victoria-based organization that focuses on addressing root causes of poverty in B.C. FIA says the existing strategy to feed the hungry isn’t the best way to end hunger.

“Churches in particular have responded to this need by donating to a food bank, but the longer we do it, the more we realize it’s letting the government off the hook,” said Peggy Wilmot with FIA.

Food Banks Canada numbers show that 882,000 people accessed food banks across the country last year, an all-time high. More troubling, 11 per cent of those people used the service for the first time.

The three food banks in the municipality of Victoria – the Mustard Seed and smaller services at St. John the Divine and Saint Vincent de Paul – restrict their users to one visit each month to keep the system afloat.

“It isn’t just about people not having food, it’s about poverty and the high cost of housing, and living wage and having enough means to access healthy foods,” said Linda Geggie of the Capital Region Food and Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable.

Wilmot agreed that the guaranteed annual income needs to rise to reduce the reliance of the “working poor” on food banks.

“If people had adequate housing that didn’t cost them 100 per cent of their income, then they’d have money left over to buy food,” she said.

Murdock said the first steps from the municipality will be an awareness campaign. Unanimous support from council directed staff to write letters to the provincial and federal governments urging them to adopt the National Food Strategy.

He also hopes to eventually get resolutions supported by the Union of B.C. Municipalities and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

– with files from Daniel Palmer

kslavin@saanichnews.com