When Gerard Kennedy came to Toronto in 1986 to run the Daily Bread Food Bank, hunger was the city's dirty little secret.
A poll that year showed half of Torontonians believed world hunger was a serious problem. But only one in 10 thought it was a local issue. By the end of that year, however, Kennedy had put local hunger on the front pages of every newspaper and on every radio and television broadcast in Toronto.
Kennedy forced Toronto to look at the poverty in its own back yard. For a city that still saw itself as Toronto the Good, it was shocking. And the city responded.
Fire halls and grocery stores collected food. The Blue Jays became the first professional baseball team in North America to hold food drives during games. The Star became the first newspaper to distribute brown paper grocery bags so readers could contribute.
An impressive $1 million worth of food was collected during that year's Thanksgiving food drive. Ten years later, Daily Bread was the largest in the country, raising $30 million worth of food annually.
An impressive record of promotion and management, to be sure.
But when food banks become not a stopgap measure for people down on their luck, but just another handout to depend on, then you wonder whether Kennedy's good intentions helped create as many problems as it solved.
Food banks for university students strike me as the most egregious example of abuse, or at least, of misplaced priorities. If you can't afford to put yourself through university and feed yourself at the same time, you might want to ask yourself which is more important.