Hunger too common in Montreal

Nine percent of Montrealers face ‘moderate to severe food insecurity’

By Kevin Woodhouse

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the definition of food security is “when all people have, at any time and with dignity, physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for a healthy active life.”

In the greater Montreal area, Centraide has data confirming 139,000 residents (nine percent of the population) suffer from “moderate to severe” food insecurity. More troubling is that about “half of the households that use food agencies are composed of families with children.”

Food insecurity affects people in a myriad of ways.

While Montreal is seen as a foodie’s paradise with an array of fabulous restaurants and easy access to fresh produce and fruit through grocery stores, too many Montrealers face the dilemma of choosing between feeding their family or paying the rent or Hydro bills—which are expected to rise by two per cent on April 1, a total hike of 13 per cent in the last few years.

Centraide noted that “the cost of housing has a direct impact on food insecurity of individuals or families. Unfortunately, the portion of the budget allocated to food is one that is often sacrificed because of other obligations.”

The fallout from this is that families cannot get access to healthy food due to inaccessibility because of transportation issues, there simply isn’t enough to cover the grocery bill and some children go to school hungry as the breakfast meal must be skipped as a cost saving method.

While schools and after school programs are a big help for students who don’t get enough to eat, summer is a problem as the programs are put on hold when the schools close for the summer but food insecurity never takes a holiday.

Thankfully, Centraide has identified some solutions to food insecurity that include the increased advocacy and funding for programs like community kitchens and gardens, the Good Food Box that increases the number of fresh food and vegetables for those less fortunate as well as Shop Sharing, a variation on Christmas Baskets, that run all year.

Citizens can help as well by thinking about food donations to their local non-profit agencies like Moisson Montreal or On Rock Ministries outside of holiday times. Another helpful way would be to donate food that the donor actually eats in lieu of cleaning out the pantry with non-name brands.

Centraide believes municipal, provincial and federal governments can do their part by offering more affordable housing options so that residents don’t have to choose between rent and food for their family.
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