By: Misha W.,Prince of Wales Collegiate, St. John’s
As Canadians, we recognize the fact that there is poverty and hunger in our nation. At Christmas time, cupboards are opened during food drives and gifts are placed beneath the Happy Tree. Full of pride, we know that there will be grateful smiles on the faces of families who would otherwise go hungry. But once the Yule log has gone out, all that remains on the plates of those less fortunate is despair. It is easy to forget about continued national hunger when there isn't someone knocking on the door.
Too often hunger is overlooked. Politicians feed citizens only positives - once again Canada has been voted the number one place in the world to live. With patriotic fervour, flags are waved in the streets, yet the fact that this designation is a relative measure is overlooked. No, Canada is not a third world country, but many people do live below the poverty line. Catherine Ford, a journalist from the Calgary Herald wrote, "[Canadian children] don't starve like the children of North Korea or Rwanda. They just get to live in a privileged nation where they can see exactly what they are missing."
Attitudes, which dismiss hunger, are aimed at those less fortunate. Society uses labels such as, “lazy; they could get jobs if they tried.” These are unfair judgements that do not take into account the daily struggles that people face often without the comfort of a full stomach. Everyone seems to remember how many taxes they pay, but forget that the government cuts social programs such as social assistance. Statistics show that people who receive social assistance frequent food banks most often. On the other hand, many food bank recipients do hold jobs. But unfortunately, a minimum wage job cannot support a family.
The Canadian Association of Food Banks (CABF) releases an annual report on the state of hunger in Canada. Hunger Count 1999 showed that in the month of March, over 790, 000 Canadians visited a food bank. That is more than the entire population of Newfoundland! The number of people frequenting food banks has more than doubled over the past decade. Over 40% of food bank recipients are under 18 years old. Sadly, most food banks in Canada cannot meet the demand.
Julia Bass, director of the CAFB, commented, "this growth in hunger is deeply disturbing and raises fundamental questions about the type of society we are choosing to create."
Fortunately, some people do care. Recently, my high school, in cooperation with Rotary International and the Salvation Army, held a very successful food drive. Shelves at the food bank, virtually empty when the first load of groceries arrived, were filled beyond capacity by the end of the day.
Hunger cannot be ignored. It is a problem that is slowly eating our country. Food banks do wonderful things for so many people, however their capacity is limited. As Canadians we must start looking for a permanent solution to provide sustenance for all of our population. The great wealth of Canada should be shared with all of its citizens.