Poverty Task Force calling for improved income policies to address food insecurity crisis

WELLINGTON COUNTY – A new campaign is informing the community about the harsh realities of food insecurity in Guelph and Wellington County. 

Launched by the Guelph and Wellington Task Force for Poverty Elimination, the “Income Security for Food Security” campaign is aimed at addressing food insecurity through building support for improved income policies.  

“While food costs continue to rise at unprecedented rates, inadequate income policies, such as minimum wage and social assistance rates, are leaving people with not enough money to afford essential food,” says task force director Dominica McPherson.

“Combined with skyrocketing rents and a lack of affordable housing, people are increasingly struggling to make ends meet.” 

The public awareness and advocacy campaign is encouraging community members to spread the word and take action. 

The campaign’s online hub, gwpoverty.ca/food-insecurity offers a wealth of information, including statistics, impact stories, and additional materials spotlighting the impacts of food insecurity in Guelph and Wellington County. 

The site includes a downloadable petition that community members can sign and submit to the Poverty Task Force to deliver a compelling message to the Ontario Government to improve income policy. 

“There is no excuse for anyone in our community to go hungry and yet, 18 per cent of households in Guelph-Wellington are food insecure, while one in four children in Ontario live in food insecure households. 

“The stark reality is that Ontario’s income policies are failing to keep pace with escalating costs of basic needs like food and housing,” says McPherson.

Most people who are food insecure are working, she shares, noting that low pay, not enough hours or benefits can all lead to people being unable to afford food. 

“The provincially set minimum wage of $16.55/hour is $4.35/hour below the Guelph-Wellington living wage of $20.90/hour, the minimum a worker needs to earn to meet basic needs. Too many workers are facing impossible choices like choosing between putting food on the table or paying their bills,” she says.  

Courtney O’Neill, Nutritious Food Coordinator with the Centre Wellington Community Foundation, underscores the urgency of the situation. 

“It’s not only that the number of people accessing food supports is at an all-time high in our community; it’s that groups that traditionally were food secure are now needing support,” says O’Neill.

“Homeowners, couples with full-time employment, youth, and retirees who have had to return to work are just a few examples of groups that can’t afford enough food. 

“It’s a reminder that anyone can experience food insecurity, and as a community, we need to consider this shift when providing support in rural communities.”

“Food insecurity is the result of government failure to address income issues, including a rise in low-wage jobs, skyrocketing rents and poverty level social assistance rates,” McPherson added, noting that a single person on the Ontario Disability Support Program receives just $1,308/month to cover all expenses, while a single person on Ontario Works receives only $733/month, an amount that has been frozen since 2018.

“We can all play a role in addressing the food insecurity crisis by demanding change. Signing the petition and increasing awareness builds support for income-based solutions. With this support, we can more effectively influence the provincial government to take action to solve this issue,” McPherson says. 

The “Income Security for Food Security” web page provides easy ways for community members to spread the word about this issue by sharing graphics and messages from the site on their social media channels. 

The site also includes a mechanism for those who are interested and able to donate to food initiatives in Guelph and Wellington County.

For more information or to sign the petition, visit gwpoverty.ca/food-insecurity.