From Shaman’s Rock
By Jim Poling Sr.
And so we enter the time of plenty.
Crops ripen in fields. Apple trees hang heavy with fruit.
Autumn is the time of plenty of food. The time of harvest and satisfaction knowing we have the food we need for lean months ahead.
Yet as we enter the time of plenty the number of children returning to school with hungry stomachs continues to increase.
Statistics Canada reports that in 2022 almost 1.8 million Canadian children lived in households that could not afford the food needed for healthy living. Almost 11 per cent of households in the Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Pine Ridge region were food insecure in 2022, the region’s district health board reported earlier this year.
Food banks say that visits to their facilities have increased by as much as 20 to 30 per cent in the last year. Feed Ontario, a collective of hunger relief organizations, says that roughly one-third of all visitors to Ontario food banks are under 18 years of age.
Feed Ontario also says that Ontario food banks were visited more than 4.3 million times during the 2021-22 year, an increase of 42 per cent over the previous three years. The number of visits in the first nine months of last year increased 24 per cent.
Also, the number of first-time visitors increased 64 per cent since 2019.
Child hunger is not just about a kid not having enough to eat now and then. It is a problem that affects our entire society for years into the future.
Hungry children can’t focus properly on classroom lessons or on learning life skills. When they don’t absorb lessons they have trouble later getting a job needed to support themselves and any family they might have in the future.
The result often is even more families with not enough food for healthy living. It is a cycle of more hungry children unable to escape the cycle of poverty and resulting food insecurity.
Hungry families and hungry children lead to numerous social problems, including crime.
Research shows a correlation between food insecurity and violent crime. One U.S. university study concluded that for every one per cent rise in food insecurity, violent crime rates increased by 12 per cent.
In the words of Pearl Buck, author of the internationally acclaimed novel The Good Earth:
“A hungry man can’t see right or wrong. He just sees food.”
Hungry people are not only perpetrators of crime, they sometimes are victims. Statistics Canada has reported that more than one in seven Canadian adults who were victims of crime from 2016 to 2018 lacked consistent access to enough food to live an active, healthy life.
There is no shortage of individuals or organizations trying to alleviate hunger among children and their families. Food Banks Canada says it supports a network of 4,750 hunger relief organizations across Canada.
There are many other hunger relief groups such as the St. Vincent de Paul Society collecting a distributing food for those in need.
All the good work being done to feed the hungry is not enough. It fills some bellies temporarily but does little to eliminate the causes of food insecurity.
Many experts say that the way to attack poverty and hunger is to work at limiting the inequalities we have in income, wealth, gender and race. Unimaginable fortunes are being made by the world’s super rich while common working people face deteriorating benefits.
Simply put, the gap between the rich and the rest of us continues to widen, assisted by poor governance and corruption.
Oxfam International, a global movement fighting poverty, says common people must work together to challenge the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few.
“We can demand an end to patriarchy, white supremacy and neoliberalism,” it says. “We can change the rules on tax to make sure the richest pay their fair share. We can demand more spending on public health and education. We can demand fair wages for everyone.”
All I know is that it is a total outrage that we still have children going to school hungry and relying on school breakfasts and lunches to provide their basic nutrition needs.