Health unit tackles food insecurity
By Robert Mackenzie
Published August 29, 2017
Updated Sept. 6, 2017
The Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge Health Unit will be launching a program this fall to fight rising food insecurity in the county and province.
Food insecurity is having inadequate access to food because of financial limitations and is most common among single parent households, those receiving social assistance, Indigenous populations and the precariously employed, explained health unit intern Jessica Knot in a presentation to community members Aug. 23.
In her presentation, Knot, an Omemee native who recently completed her master’s in public health at Brock University, said that food charities are only temporary solutions to food insecurity and in order to fix the problem there needs to be a focus on improving income.
“Food insecurity is not a food problem, it’s a financial problem,” she said.
Knot listed increased minimum wage and basic income as potential ways to address food insecurity, which impacts more than 13 per cent of households in the region, according to the health unit.
Over the next 18 months, the minimum wage in Ontario will increase by 32 per cent to $15 per hour. Knot said that the increase will not only fight food insecurity, but will help boost local businesses, as low-income earners are more likely to spend any extra money on items such as food and clothes, and are less likely to travel out of the community to buy them.
Currently, the Ontario government is launching a basic income pilot project in five communities across the province. The program will see selected people given a minimum income of about $17,000 from the government, with the amount decreasing by $0.50 for every dollar the selected people earn. Knot said a basic income can factor in food insecurity and can reach large populations, helping anyone in poverty. The pilot project will be launching in Lindsay this fall.
The health unit doesn’t have a name for the food insecurity campaign they are launching this fall, but it will advocate for a basic income guarantee, an increase in social assistance rates and basic employment standards to reduce unstable work. The health unit will also be posting a letter script on their website that people can fill in with their names and send to their members of parliament.
The original version of this story has been corrected. The previous version stated:
"The program will see selected people given a minimum income of about $17,000 from the government, with the amount decreasing by $0.50 for every hour the selected people work."
It has been changed to reflect that the amount provided to people will be reduced by 50 cents for each dollar earned from wages, not every hour worked.