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LETTER: Food banks — the good, the bad and the ugly

Food bank - Stock
Food bank - Stock - 123RF Stock Photo
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

I have conflicting emotions in regards to food banks. These have resurfaced from recent media coverage and Brian Jones Telegram article (Feb. 6) “Foodbanks: the forgotten failure.”

I view them as a necessary evil resulting from failed public policy such as inadequate welfare payments, insufficient student loans, low minimum wage, unemployment, underemployment, health care access, substance abuse, addiction issues, etc. And sometimes just pure bad luck.

In any case food banks are now an integral part of the social welfare net.

Whether such services are provided by government or NGO’s most recipients see no difference. For many it is no longer an emergency, temporary fix.

So why, you might ask, am I conflicted?

I view them as a necessary evil resulting from failed public policy such as inadequate welfare payments, insufficient student loans, low minimum wage, unemployment, underemployment, health care access, substance abuse, addiction issues, etc. And sometimes just pure bad luck.

It is due to my own personal experiences a few years ago as a deliverer of food bank hampers. For over a decade my teenaged children and I would bag and deliver a car full of groceries to as many as a dozen families once or twice a month.

We sometimes went to social housing in the middle of the winter where the front door was widely ajar to be met by a short-sleeved recipient in shorts proceeded by a blast of hot air from heaters turned on bust.

We witnessed the despair of cyclical generational poverty in a household containing a grandparent, single parent and recently pregnant teenage granddaughter.

I recall the heart-warming immigrant family who meekly felt the need to explain that that this was a recent and temporary setback for them while insisting on showing me the father’s last cheque stub from a job from which he had just been laid off.

There were also instances where we shovelled the walkway to get to an appreciative, fragile senior. And others where the sole elderly recipient seemed to enjoy the opportunity to chat as much as the food.

Then there was the time I struggled up a flight of stairs to drop off a well-stocked Christmas carton of goodies, included a turkey, to an expected needy family.

Four apparently healthy young men in their 20s or early 30s were sitting around a table smoking, drinking beer and playing poker. When asked where to put the Christmas hamper one said “over there on the counter with the other ones.”

I put the hamper beside two others of similar size and made my retreat without so much as a “thank you.”. It became obvious that I was just another stitch in the social welfare net.

My confliction, therefore, comes from having seen the good, the bad and the ugly.

Tom Hawco

St. John's

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PAM FRAMPTON: Thinking beyond food banks

BRIAN JONES: Food banks, the forgotten failure

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