Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Feeding Frenzy

The Toronto Star has unofficially endorsed Gerard Kennedy's Liberal leadership candidacy with this article that recalls his tenure as head of the Daily Bread Food Bank in terms that recall the feeding of five thousand with two fish and five loaves:

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.


Joan Tintor said...

When the NDP unexpectedly came to power in Ontario in 1990, Bob Rae famously said he wanted food banks to disappear, a typically reality-challenged socialist view. If you hand out free food, there will always be people willing to take it, regardless of the economy or welfare rates.

As for the Star and Kennedy, Kennedy fell for their blandishments in the 1996 Ontario Liberal leadership, then they pulled the rug out from under him on voting day.


Anonymous said...

The Toronto food bank is nothing but a marketing strategy - and a very good one at that.