Redefining poverty in Quinte
The organizer of a grassroots organization speaking out against food insecurity says the government needs to give Ontarians the tools to get out of poverty, so they don’t have to rely on food banks for their next meal.
Mike Balkwill is the campaign organizer for Putting Food in the Budget, a group of volunteers who live on low incomes, working to change the perception and action around food insecurity in Ontario.
During a presentation to the Poverty Roundtable Hastings Prince Edward at the Quinte Sports and Wellness Centre Wednesday afternoon, he defined food insecurity as having a lack of quality food due to living on a low income. The biggest myth about poverty is that it only happens to certain people, Balkwill said.
“The conditions that make people poor in the community affect everybody and it’s not just something that has happened to somebody. It’s part of a systemic wave of activity that is and will continue to spread to others,” he said adding that job loss, medical issues and trauma can also force people in to poverty.
“Fighting against poverty is fighting for security for people who are not poor as well.”
According to Hastings Prince Edward Public Health’s report The Real Cost of Eating Well in Hastings and Prince Edward Counties 2015, a family of four in the Quinte region spent an average of $198.74 on groceries per week in 2015. This is up nearly $35 per week from 2010.
Balkwill said government programs and community organizations such as food banks are necessary for emergencies, but that the goal should be to help people live independently.
“In whatever way the municipality and agencies can reduce the expenses for poor people, they should,” he said adding that individuals can make a difference by treating people living in poverty as equals.
“They can demand that they’re municipal government pass resolutions and send them on to the provincial government supporting increases in social assistance, increases in the minimum wage and subsidizing housing.”
Balkwill added that municipalities such as those in the Quinte region can also help by reducing or eliminating transit charges, recreational costs and school activity fees for those living on a low income.
The roundtable unveiled its new logo, designed by students in Loyalist College’s graphic design program. Christine Durant was also introduced as the roundtable’s new director.
Roughly 30 people attended the discussion, including members of the City of Belleville, United Way of Quinte, John Howard Society and HPEPH.
The Community Development Council of Quinte sponsored the event.
To learn more about the Poverty Roundtable Hastings Prince Edward, visit www.povertyroundtablehpe.ca.
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