I was honoured to be asked to the Candidate Conversation held at the Waterloo Region Food Bank this morning.

The conversation was definitely an eye-opener. The panelists provided us with lots of information about the Food Assistance Network, consisting of 100 agencies at the regional level working together to collect, store, distribute and deliver food to dozens of locations providing food hampers, hot meals, and nutritional information.

And the need is great: Last year over 250 food hampers were needed every day and 1500 meals were served every day. 1 in 20 people in Waterloo Region need food assistance, and over 850,000 Canadians received help from food banks last year. Look down your street — one of your neighbours needs food assistance.

The Waterloo Region Food Assistance Network does great work with minimal government support, and that only from the Regional level of government. I find it simply unacceptable that this still happens in Canada. Perhaps it happens because Canada is the only OECD country that has no national strategy to address poverty, housing, health care.

The Green Party aims to fix that. Guaranteed Livable Income is the basis for poverty reduction. By guaranteeing that every Canadian over the age of 18 has a minimum income, dependence on Food Assistance programs will be reduced. An interesting observation was that Canadian Seniors are the people who have the least need for food assistance because they receive a Guaranteed Income Supplement and Old Age Security. This financial stablility of a guaranteed livable income needs to be extended to every Canadian.

Providing housing is also a major step in poverty reduction. It is really hard to look for work without stable housing. Without work, it is really hard to provide good, healthy food for your family. Without good, healthy food people have more physical and mental health problems. Sure, there are programs to treat illness, but it’s a far better strategy to prevent illness by providing adequate food and shelter.

The Greens’ National Housing Strategy aims to put Housing First. This will immediately provide relief to people that find themselves homeless. Affordable, high-quality housing for all Canadians is needed in all municipalities, and the National Housing Strategy will provide funding for housing cooperatives and subsidized housing programs.

Poverty reduction, housing and food security are top-most on the Green Party platform. The Green Party isn’t only about the Environment any more.

–Bob.