Friday, December 11, 2015

What Would Jesus Do? Close Food Banks. They Have Become "Perpetual Poverty Machines" That Don't Change Society

Food bank use in 2014 across Canada - numbers are up again in 2015
Jesus would see that food banks – worthy as their work is - are no solution to poverty, and never will be.

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column

Tuesday December 8, 2015

By Bill Tieleman

When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist."

- Hélder Câmara, Brazilian Catholic Archbishop, 1909-1999

If Jesus came back to Earth on his birthday this Christmas, one of his first missions would be to close food banks -- all of them.

Not because they aren't vitally important in feeding the poor but because food banks are not a solution to poverty -- and never will be.

Here in B.C. food banks were first started 33 years ago as a temporary measure to deal with growing numbers of people going hungry.

It's definitely not working.

More than 100,000 people visited a food bank for help in B.C. this past March, a 2.8 per cent increase over last year. And nationally, 852,137 people needed groceries from a food bank, a one per cent jump, with over one third served being children.

"Food banks don't solve the problem, they ameliorate the problem," says Bill Hopwood of anti-poverty advocacy group Raise the Rates. "We know people are hungry and we know they need food."

Treating a symptom

Jesus said 2,000 years ago, according to the Bible: "When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed."

And Jesus told the rich to sell their goods and give them to the poor.
Hopwood told me in an interview Sunday that food banks are merely treating a symptom, not the problem.

"If people kept falling off a cliff and injuring themselves you don't build a hospital at the foot of the cliff, you put up a fence at the top," he said.

And yet B.C. is the only province with no poverty reduction plan to put up that much-needed fence, despite more than 400 organizations calling for one.

Even worse, the BC Liberal government has frozen abysmally low welfare and disability benefits rates since 2008 -- meaning already inadequate financial support for those in need has been eroded by cost of living increases.

Could you live on just $610 a month for shelter and food and all other expenses?

That's the pathetically low amount single people on welfare get. And those with disabilities that prevent them from working only get $906 monthly.

Premier Scrooge

Why won't Premier Christy Clark -- a regular churchgoer -- follow the Bible and find a way to help the poorest among us with a rate increase?

That's urgently needed, Hopwood says, along with more affordable housing, an increase in the minimum wage and accessible childcare.

But the BC Liberals are doing next to nothing on those either.
Hopwood also questions how the media handle poverty issues.

Every holiday season the media make special efforts to raise funds for food banks and other worthy causes that help those in need -- and I applaud that as well as donate.

Unfortunately, media don't do such a good job explaining why increasing poverty exists in an extremely wealthy society -- and why food banks are not the answer.

Raise the Rates held a "Poor People's Radio" protest with about 80 attending outside CBC Radio and Television's Vancouver headquarters last Friday -- and issued a news release urging CBC to talk about ending poverty on Food Bank Day and question politicians on air about it.

But Hopwood says neither CBC nor any other media covered the event or called about it.

"The media feel that tackling the root causes is too difficult and we have to do something now," Hopwood told me. "The amount of money the CBC raises will feed each person who uses food banks in BC for two days.

What about the other 363 days of the year?"


Beggars don't choose

Hopwood is very clear that Raise the Rates is grateful that CBC and the many donors it encourages are helping out. The CBC raised $537,000 this year.

Johnny Michel, CBC's B.C. and Alberta senior managing director for English language services, wrote Hopwood responding to the call for more investigation of poverty.

"We cover these topics year-round and, as is our tradition, put additional focus into them in the weeks leading up to Open House and Food Bank Day. This includes issues of poverty and hunger and the need for sustainable food security options," Michel wrote.

"We agree that existence of food banks is not a permanent solution to hunger and poverty," Michel concluded. "However, it's a critical need for thousands of people and CBC will continue to support where we can."

Hopwood agrees on that but points out that after 29 years of CBC Food Bank Days, the problem is getting worse.

And CBC Radio host Stephen Quinn acknowledged the challenge facing media in a 2012 Globe and Mail column about previous Raise the Rates protests at Food Bank Day.

Quinn pointed out that most on welfare or disability benefits are:

"People who, through no fault of their own, have ended up where they are. Those people deserve the same right to dignity as anyone else. My mother always told me that beggars can't be choosers.

"That will be true as long as we make them beg," Quinn wrote.

Charity industrial complex?

It all raises even more difficult questions about the very tenets of charity.
Peter Buffett, chair of the NoVo Foundation in the United States and son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, wrote a provocative article for the New York Times accusing the wealthy of using charity as a pressure valve that avoids the need for social change.

"It's what I would call 'conscience laundering' -- feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity," Buffett wrote.

"But this just keeps the existing structure of inequality in place. The rich sleep better at night, while others get just enough to keep the pot from boiling over," he argued.

"But as long as most folks are patting themselves on the back for charitable acts, we've got a perpetual poverty machine. It's an old story; we really need a new one."

It's a story as old as the Bible -- and the ending isn't getting any better every Christmas since.



e.a.f. said...

If the food banks closed the B.C. Lieberals still would not increase the welfare/disability rates. people, children and adults, alike would just go hungry. Christy may go to church, but if she weren't Premier, I doubt that ass of hers would hit the pew.

Currently there are 4 dead kids, who were in care. Have things improved. NO. I would suggest society would not force Christy and her cabal to do anything until there were on average 10 dead kids per month, in care. (then it would be too much bad press to ignore) even if the MSM in B.C. didn't cover it, others would.

Christy and her cabal know the welfare rates are much too low as is the min. wage. yet now that she says the province has a surplus, she is going to lower taxes and pay down the debt. Not a word about feeding kids, improving the health care system, etc. She is appealing to her base. she needs contributions to be re-elected. kids can die but as long as she is re-elected along with guys like Fassbender, Coleman, Bond, etc. she will be happy and the kids will just have to die.

We saw an news item recently which cited long waits for surgeries due to a lack of specialized nurses and orthopedic surgeons. Yes, she and the health minister tossed a few bucks that way. Then we get an announcement she is giving $100 Million to the Tech industry. Why can't see take that $100 Million and invest it in surgeons and specialized nurses. It certainly would create jobs and alleviate a lot of pain. Christy, in my opinion, gives money to those who give her money. i.e. contributors to the B.C. Lieberal party. Spending money on filing vacancies in health care will not get here those types of dollars.

When you look at Norm Farrell's blog, In-Sight he has some very interesting charts and figures about how much money Christy and her cabal are tossing around for mining, oil, gas with declining return for the province. So when Christy says there isn't money for children and others living in poverty she is not telling the truth. Christy simply prefers to spend the money somewhere else.

So if you want to close the food banks and get rid of that poverty industry, go ahead, but in my opinion all we will see are people in E.R.s suffering from diseases related to hunger.

I find it so "interesting" that each year at Christmas we see the T.V. stations having these events to raise money, gifts, food for "those less fortunate" at Christmas. Come January are any of these media sources doing articles about the poverty in this province or writing editorials about the poverty and poor health care in the province? NO. its back to business, hoping to get more advertising dollars from the provincial government.

Sadly the voters of this province aren't much better. I haven't exactly seen a ground swell of support for kids living in poverty. Haven't seen any heads of those big churches out in the Bible belt taking their B.C. Lieberal M.L.A.s to task for the poverty children live in. Guess they figure the kids will get a better deal in the next life or be "saved" if they find Jesus or some sort of shit.

I'd really love to see the heads of all the faiths take on Christy and her B.C. Lieberals regarding the poverty children and adults live in, in the province.

the B.C. Lieberals can't even ensure children in care stay alive or are in group homes with appropriate care givers. We all saw on the news who some group homes weren't "up to standard". did we see any of those people of faith say anything? Not so much. Just the advocate for children.

enough of my rant. Time to write a cheque to the food bank and Christmas charity in the area.

Anonymous said...

The BC Liberals - in a very Harperman type move - have stopped counting the number of homeless turned away from full shelters... so as unsettling as it is to see CC attack food banks at Christmas: it is not surprising.

Unknown said...

The food banks are needed to help the poor get food. They should be stopped, but only when the poor have enough money to buy food. We need to increase welfare or employ the unemployed.
In any event we cannot allow people to starve to death.

Anonymous said...


To commemorate the death of convicted stock swindler Bill Bennett and his penchant for firing those who would speak truth to power - Hello Diane Woods - Christy Clark engaged Bob Plecas to kill the MCFD's independent representative for children and youth advocate Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond.