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People using food banks not well fed

BY TAMARA BELKOV The co-chair of the Sudbury Manitoulin Food Security Network says the food being given out at area food banks is not nutritious. According to Doreen Ojala, people who rely on food banks are suffering from nutritional deficiencies.

BY TAMARA BELKOV

The co-chair of the Sudbury Manitoulin Food Security Network says the food being given out at area food banks is not nutritious.

According to Doreen Ojala, people who rely on food banks are suffering from nutritional deficiencies.

“We have 13,500 people going to the food bank in Sudbury,” Ojala says. “That’s the same people every month. They aren’t getting enough vitamin B or C.”

Ojala’s job is to ensure all Sudburians have the ability to access healthy and nutritious foods.

Too many people in Sudbury are being forced to rely on food banks that were originally designed to provide only emergency assistance, she says.

The Sudbury Food Bank is an umbrella organization managed by Neil Cutchaw. He supplies 38-member agencies with mostly non-perishable food items offer assistance on an emergency basis to many from students to pensioners to those with jobs.

“The food banks in general are meant for emergency needs and we are doing our job meeting those needs on a monthly basis,” Cutchaw says. “Last summer we were able to provide fresh fruit and vegetables from our partnership with the horticultural society.”

Cutchaw adds the staples they provide (beans, pasta and rice) are easily stretched and are nutritionally balanced.

“They are very high-end for energy and protein. I’m not suggesting they are a complete meal.

We hope people are adding vegetables and ground beef or chicken to make meals as nutritious as possible.”

Geneva Oake has been the Family Services co-ordinator with the Salvation Army for 20 years.

She also says the food is nutritious. The boxes they distribute to families in the Flour Mill area contain fresh milk, bread, pasta, rice, peanut butter and canned items such as sauce, tomatoes, peas or corn, tuna or salmon and are intended as emergency assistance. The boxes are meant to last three to four days and are only given out once a month.

“There are some using it regularly, but most are using it in emergencies or for occasional assistance,” Oake says. “In March, we fed 420 households or 1,265 adults and children.”

Ojala says simply donating more food isn’t the answer.  “People should be allocated enough to buy healthy nutritious food depending on the size of their family.

People on social assistance, pensions and working for minimum wage, end up trapped in a cycle of poverty and poor health. We need to move food security issues into policy planning. The government needs to recognize the real cost of food.”

Ojala uses the Sudbury District Health Unit's nutritious food basket report as a model and says the rates established by the province for social assistance are too low and prevent Sudburians from being able to buy healthy food.

Tammy Cheguis is with the Sudbury District Health Unit (SDHU) and is responsible for the Nutritious Food Basket report put out each year as a tool to help calculate what it costs to feed a family of four.

The basket contains 66 food items priced in area grocery stores. Snack foods, personal hygiene and household products are not included. Last, year the cost of the food basket was $556.45 per month in Sudbury and Manitoulin districts.

Ontario Works says a family of four (two adults and two children under 12) receives a basic monthly allowance of $594 to cover all the family’s expenses such as groceries, clothing, school supplies and bus tickets.

The additional cost of providing shelter is calculated at $621 a month.


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