Do charity to fight food insecurity?

On October 10, on the occasion of “Solidarity Week”, the minister responsible for Social Solidarity and Community Action, Chantal Rouleau, invited the population to donate generously to the network of Food Banks of Quebec (BAQ) in a video published on his Facebook page. “We work more. Because the most important action… is what we do! “, he stated at the end of his plea for individual generosity.

This week, the Hunger Report 2023 came to confirm the seriousness of the situation: one in ten people would have used the services of food banks in 2023, unprecedented.

Is it normal for people to depend on charity to be able to eat properly or even to meet their other basic needs? And is it normal for the minister responsible for Social Solidarity to trust food banks so much when their role should be to fight poverty?

Rights in respect thereof

In 1969, with the adoption of the Social Assistance Act, Quebec confirmed its break with the charitable management of poverty by establishing a universal right to social assistance, which should allow “meeting ordinary needs and special of a family or a single person who is deprived of means of subsistence. In addition, since 1976, the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms recognizes that “every person in need has the right, for her and her family, to measures of economic assistance and social measures (…) that help her to guarantee a decent standard of living.

This is a matter of rights that have never been fully respected. Seeing Minister Rouleau launch appeals to charity to combat food insecurity is nothing less than contrary to the mission of her ministry. Respect for rights should not depend on the generosity of the general public.

Blatant lack of political will

Already in 2016, the BAQ network stated in the conclusions of its Report on hunger that “the status quo no longer works: it is time to reassess our approach to the problem of hunger and work for real change. (…) Our society could choose to eliminate poverty or at least cut it in half by 2020”.

Then, this week, this same BAQ network denounced, in its latest Hunger Report, a “skyrocketing increase” in needs and recalled, once again, the urgency of addressing the causes of poverty rather than the its effects “Although essential, the food aid offered by our great solidarity network continues to be a palliative intervention in the face of the problem of food insecurity. Only the fight against poverty, which involves improving our social safety net, can bring real comfort. There is something deeply broken right now. »

So, unfortunately, funding for food banks remains necessary, but the government must understand that this is not what will reduce poverty in Quebec.

A plan to fight poverty

Next winter, Minister Rouleau is due to present the government’s fourth action plan to combat poverty. We hope that he can adjust his focus and move away from this logic of charity and simple management of the consequences of poverty. The many crises that shake Quebec—housing, homelessness, food insecurity—have a common denominator: insufficient income. The minister must do more by strengthening public protections so that everyone can meet at least their basic needs.

When you are a councilor responsible for Social Solidarity, the most important action to take is not to reconnect with the charity, it is to present an action plan worthy of the name.

To see on video