This is a reprise of the diary I wrote for one of last year's Feeding America blogathon. My personal situation has changed immensely, for the better, since I wrote it, but it is no less true. This is a window into what it is really like to wait in line at the food bank.
There are many people, real live human beings, who are hungry in your neighbourhood, including children. Please, if you can, help to fill the hungry tummies near you.
Next week, I will again be a client of the Greater Vancouver Food Bank, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. This is one of the most difficult diaries I've ever had to write, humiliating really, but if it helps even one person to open their eyes, to open their heart, it will have been worth it. Please don't feel sorry for me; I will get through this, others will not.
One day next week I will make the trek from my home to a church hall a few blocks away. I will line up with all the rest of those for whom not enough money is a reality. My fellows in the line will include Afghan refugees, single mothers, other folks like me with disabilites, long-term unemployed people, people who work minimum wage jobs, and many others. We will walk up the stairs and be asked by volunteers at a long table for our identification, so they can cross our names off their list of eligible people. We will then line up to go into the actual food distribution room, where we will file past stations of volunteers who will hand us food that has been donated. Unless we ask specifically, the volunteer at the pasta and soup station will choose which pasta or soup we will receive. Beyond the soups and pastas, we will likely receive potatoes, bread, onions, sometimes peanut butter, perhaps eggs and or oranges, sometimes other kinds of protein. Those with babies will likely receive baby food. Once we have gathered our donations, we will walk down the steps and into the Vancouver weather. Today it is raining.
How do I know this? Because five years ago, after my husband died, I was in that line.
I was born with Turner's Sydrome, a chromosomal disorder which means that while most women have two x chromosomes I have only one. This has caused multiple effects, including a loss of much of my hearing, arthritis, and osteoporosis, and most of the bone that would hold my teeth in. When my husband died, after four years of disability including two years of dialysis, I was missing three teeth and the rest were being held in by ligiments. Through a miraculus set of circumstances, I was given the money to remove the rest of my teeth, and the Province of BC, after much prodding, agreed to pay for full dentures. It took many months for this whole process, and I was completely without teeth for nine months. When I went to apply for welfare, because my teeth were being pulled the next day, the woman declared that she would allow me benefits, but that I was "not disabled" because her son was almost deaf and he worked. I truly wonder how she thought anyone was going to hire me when I had not a tooth in my head. I also made the mistake of letting her intimidate me. That was a huge mistake. It is also very common for people in need to be intimidated by the beaurocrats who they must satisfy in order to be helped.
Four years later, my disabilities have worsened, to the point that my doctor has determined that I am totally disabled, and I am in process of filing for Person with Disability status, which will mean that I will receive a monthly pension for the rest of my life. This process takes months. In order to even apply for PWD status, you must apply for regular benefits, so there I am.
The monthly cheque for a single, employable woman in the Province of BC is $610.00, including $375 for shelter. Vancouver has the highest shelter costs in the country.
That's only my story.
Here are the facts about hunger in BC, from a survey conducted by the Food Banks of Canada called Hunger Count 2009:
You can access the full survey results here: http://www.foodbankscanada.ca/....
89, 886 were assisted by food banks in BC in March 2009.
That's an increase of 15% over March 2008.
31% were children
12% reported employment income
6% receive Employment Income (Which is BC government Orwelian-speak for unemployment benefits.)
44% receive social assistance (Welfare and related benefits)
19% receive disability-related income supports
81% of food banks saw an increase
In March of 2009, after 7 consecutive months of job loss, BC's unemployment rate reached 7.4%. The previous March it had been approximately half that, near 4%.
The youth unemployment rate was even worse, having gone from 6.9% in March of 2008, to 13.5% in March of 2009.
The number of people on welfare and expected to work has gone up 50% during that same time.
Welfare benefits are not tied to any measure of low income, nor indexed for inflation. Benefits have only been raised minimally since the early '90s, so families on welfare have lost purchaisng power. (Purchasing power, the ability to feed and clothe and house yourself and your family.)
BC has has the highest rate of child poverty in Canada.
From a study by First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition with the support of SPARC BC
Here is the link to the entire study: http://www.campaign2000.ca/....
In 2007, the latest year for which the study has been done, for the 6th year in a row, BC had the highest rate of child poverty in Canada, 18%, well-above the national average of 15%.
(18%, think about that, almost one in every five children. Do you know five children?)
Please , support those who are your neighbours who are hungry. Support Feeding America.
Feeding America locates food surplus and intercepts it on its way to the trash and distributes it to food banks all over the country. They do not buy most of their food, which is why they can provide meals so efficiently. They collect from vendors, grocery stores, and restaurants all over the country. Plenty of food is out there -- the problem is one of logistics, transportation, and distribution.
Because Feeding America redistributes surplus, they can provide healthy meals cheaply. Ninety five cents on every dollar that you donate here goes to food distribution. Donating to Feeding America is one of the most efficient ways that you can help aid hungry people.
Even $1 will help. Click on the icon above.
If you have the means, please donate to Feeding America by clicking on the box to the right. In addition to supplying food banks all over the country, they help hungry kids through their Backpack Program, Kids Cafe, Summer Food, and School Pantry programs. And this month, Ameriprise Financial will match your donation -- which means that every dollar you donate provides 16 meals to hungry people.