Call to Action

Increased sense of helplessness and loneliness leaves some food bank users feeling like there is only one way out

By Daisy Yiu
December 15, 2022
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Man sitting with hands clasped at a neighbourhood food bank.

We have built real and lasting relationships with our food bank clients which has allowed people to open up and share with us the raw emotion of the reality they are dealing with. With these strong relationships also come difficult conversations.

(TW: suicide)

Amended January 4, 2023
This is a statement on the urgency of the fight to end poverty and food insecurity, not a commentary on MAiD. It is a glimpse into real conversations we are having with our homebound Food Bank 2 Home clients to show how dire the situation is for folks who are living in poverty. Everyone has the power to help those who are most vulnerable live with dignity, and we hope you will use your voice to join us in this fight.

Most recently, we have noticed an alarming topic come up with some of our clients who have shared suicidal ideation with our team, including some that are considering MAiD (medical assistance in dying), because they feel that they can’t live in grinding poverty anymore. No one should ever feel that death is the only way out of poverty.

For those suffering from poverty, there is so much more to manage than finances and balancing expenses related to food, rent, medication, and more. We can’t underestimate the toll it takes on anyone’s mental, emotional, and physical health when living with constant worry, fear, and stress.

I know this is a tough message to hear, and you might wonder, what can you do? Well, I’m here to tell you that your community needs you more than ever.

As the cost of living and inflation continues to skyrocket, governmental social safety nets have weakened to a disheartening degree. At the provincial level, Ontario Works (our welfare system) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) are grossly underfunded. The maximum amount an individual can receive from ODSP is $1,228 a month. This means that those who rely solely on ODSP are falling $832 below the poverty line – this is legislated poverty, and it is taking an immeasurable toll.

It’s clear that ODSP rates have not kept pace with the cost of rent or inflation. Most recipients have no choice but to use their entire benefit for housing costs, forcing them to go without other necessities such as medicine, heat, hydro or food.

All levels of government need to step up and help those who are struggling. While inflation is temporary, our poverty crisis is not. Canadians need long term solutions like robust rent assist programs, a harmonized Canada Disability Benefit, a long-overdue EI reform, and more expansions on the Canada Workers Benefit. Together, these programs create an income floor – one that ensures no Canadian will ever fall through the cracks and to a point where life does not seem possible.

We ask that you use your voice and tell your local elected officials that this is unacceptable and that social assistance rates must meet the current cost of living and increase alongside inflation. Make it known that you will not stand by as those most vulnerable in our community turn to medically assisted death or suicide because they believe it’s their only option. Everyone deserves a life that is livable.

And if you’re able, please consider donating to our Holiday Food Drive to help raise funds and food for neighbours in need. Your support will ensure that neighbours have nutritious food on their table today and that we can take action to end legislated poverty and decrease the need for food banks for tomorrow.

No one chooses poverty. But we can choose to help. I hope you’ll join us in the fight.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, there is help available. The Talk Suicide Canada line is available 24/7 every day for calls, toll-free at 1-833-4566 or for texts at 45645 from 4:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. Learn more on their website.

You can also find local resources here.


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