Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

We're building a bigger Band-Aid

  • Print
The recession has put the federal government in a giving mood -- and when the feds decide to play Santa and roll into town to deliver multimillion-dollar stimulus funding announcements, the pragmatic thing to do is say thank you and take the money.

This is likely why the recent announcement of $57 million worth of investments in local infrastructure projects was considered by many to be a good-news story. And, for the most part, it is.

The federal and provincial governments have joined forces to help fund construction of a new multi-rink hockey complex, a new Punjab cultural and seniors centre, a refurbishment of the Centennial Concert Hall, a new United Way headquarters, a new multicultural family centre for the Salvation Army, and a new community food distribution centre for Winnipeg Harvest.

Premier Gary Doer called the investment "a triple win" in the accompanying news release, adding: "We're stimulating the economy, creating jobs and building a better tomorrow for all Manitobans."

Perhaps -- except for one little niggling thing.

Did you notice that one of these projects is not like the others?

Winnipeg Harvest is an amazing, not-for-profit charitable organization. It receives no operational funds from governments and has only 14 full-time employees, relying heavily on community donations and the hard work of a veritable army of committed volunteers to do what it does, which is provide emergency food assistance without judgment to 36,000 people a month, 45 per cent of whom are children.

What differentiates Winnipeg Harvest from such agencies as the United Way or the Salvation Army is that, save for some advocacy work, it doesn't provide services aimed at transitioning people out of poverty. It's an emergency food bank -- and the fact that our governments have decided to help it build a new, expanded facility is not quite what I'd call good news. Bittersweet is the word that jumps to mind.

Food banks first began appearing in Canadian cities in the early '80s. Established to fill the gap in the social safety net, they were never meant to be permanent fixtures in our communities -- rather, they were supposed to be a temporary measure that would help alleviate people's suffering while governments got to work on long-term solutions to hunger. They were a Band-Aid.

Winnipeg Harvest says as much in its mission statement, noting that its ultimate goal is to eliminate the need for food banks entirely and put itself out of business. Instead, it's now been in operation for more than 20 years and, with a new building on the horizon, it would appear that it's not going anywhere anytime soon.

To get rid of food banks, governments would actually have to acknowledge that hunger is a problem in our country and take concrete, co-ordinated steps to deal with it -- like mandate a living wage for those fortunate enough still to have jobs nowadays, or provide a level of financial assistance to those who aren't working or who can't work such that they can live with a little dignity, or build more affordable social housing units so that people wouldn't have to choose between food and rent.

It's far easier to throw a few bucks at the local food bank and let compassionate volunteers shoulder the burden of feeding the hungry.

To be clear: I'm sure Winnipeg Harvest could use a new building and I'm happy that this organization is receiving support. And, to be fair, I also recognize that the provincial government unveiled a rather comprehensive (if somewhat vague) poverty-reduction plan not too long ago. It's about bloody time -- especially since the federal government seems perfectly content to abdicate any responsibility to provide a basic need to the citizens of this country.

My issue is with the way that financial assistance to Winnipeg Harvest was lumped in with money for a hockey rink and called economic stimulus.

Investing in food banks is not "building a better tomorrow for all Manitobans."

It's building a bigger Band-Aid.

Marlo Campbell writes for Uptown Magazine.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 8, 2009 A10

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Lindor Reynolds speaks candidly about life with terminal cancer

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A  young goose stuffed with bread from  St Vital park passers-by takes a nap in the shade Thursday near lunch  –see Bryksa’s 30 day goose challenge Day 29-June 28, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Winnipeg’s best friend the dragon fly takes a break at English Gardens in Assiniboine Park Wednesday- A dragon fly can eat  food equal to its own weight in 30 minutes-Standup photo- June 13, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Will you get out and vote for a new mayor and council?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google