The COVID-19 pandemic is an awkward time to propose exiting food banks as a response to widespread food insecurity. Food bank use, after all, is surging.
However, research has long shown that feeding surplus food to those left behind in wealthy, food-secure Canada is ineffective, inequitable and an affront to human dignity.
In a democratic society that values tolerance, equity and human rights, food banks are symbols of public policy neglect. They enable indifferent governments to ignore the moral crisis of domestic hunger.
In 2012, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, reminded Ottawa that “reliance on food banks served as a moral release valve for the state.” It “was symptomatic of the need to step up social protection systems to align them with the increased cost of living.”
He was sent packing by members of former prime minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet. Harper’s health minister at the time, Leona Aglukkaq, called De Schutter “ill-informed” and “patronizing” while Jason Kenney, then the immigration minister, dismissed him as “completely ridiculous.”
Now in 2020, looking beyond COVID-19, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promises no one will be left behind.
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