Preview The State of Food Banks in Canada and What the Poor Have to Endure

Carol RoachStarred Page By Carol Roach, 14th Aug 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Daily Life

Many people turn their noses down on people who go to food banks. Poverty in Canada is a serious social problem. Not everyone who is poor is lazy, but many of us need a helping hand.

All about Mary

Previously published in Yahoo Voices in November 2008.

"Not to worry, come with me. I will show all the best places to get some food. Tomorrow I will take you to the mission, then on Wednesday we'll go to St. Anthony's, and every second Friday we can go to The Good Shepherd, they give meat! Oh how can I forget Harvest House? Err, it may not be that easy for you to get some food there; they expect you to have young children," my friend Mary explained as she furrowed her brow.

"You got this all worked out to a science," I said jokingly.

"Of course! A mother has to do what she can do to feed her family." She said with pride.

I admired her determination to feel pride in feeding her family at all cost, but I knew that I could never share in that pride. I could not help but feel ashamed that I was reduced to accepting charity. All my life I had worked hard and gave to charity and now I was on the other end of the stick. I had an education, and it was far better than most people in my ghetto neighbourhood.

Many sad stories

I had recently completed my masters in Counselling Psychology and I was having trouble finding a job. In the interim, I knew I couldn't wait until the perfect job came along. I had to pay my rent and feed myself and pay my bills. So I did what most people did. I started taking telemarketing jobs, just to make ends meet.

Most of you may not know that the life of a telemarketer, an honest telemarketer, is not a great one. We are faced with the pressure of the sale. Some places are so demanding that if you have not made a sale at morning's end of the first day of your job, they fire you on the spot. Others gave you three days grace. If you were lucky some of the nicer places gave you a week or two to make the quota demanded by the company.

That first year, after I graduated in 1999, I was not doing so well. I was getting fired from one job after another. If I remember correctly I had had 13 different jobs; the longest lasting for only three months. I was tired, I was discouraged and I was not a good telemarketer, but I was an honest one.

We all knew the people who got ahead and made the sales were the ones who lied. I once heard a guy pretending to be the local telephone company, and someone else boasting that he worked for a fortune 500 company, neither of which was true, but they made the sales. Sometimes the dishonest ones got fired, and that was how you knew you were working for an honest company. However, most of the time the companies turned a deaf ear to what was going on; these guys were the money makers.

There were always two or three of them. The rest of us were honest and stuck to the script; we were also the ones to be fired. We were a disposable commodity while they were the moneymakers.

And so I was forced to find out how the people in my community survived the harsh life of the unemployed.

I turned to Mary for help. She was a childhood friend. Her parents were alcoholics and lived on welfare all their lives. Mary grew up in a house of 10 siblings. The boys had a history of getting into trouble with the law. Mary had two older sisters and she was in fact the youngest of the brood. Her oldest sister Aurelia was 20 years her senior. Aurelia couldn't wait to leave the ghetto, her alcoholic parents, her socially deviant brothers and the very province she lived in, without ever looking back. Mary hardly remembered her.

The other sister, Catherine was eight years older. Once she finished high school she went on to college. Yet she never completed her studies, but she she did meet her future husband there. He became a successful business man. Catherine never had to work a day in her life. Though she remained in Montreal, she too abandoned her family when her social status changed.

Mary was the baby and the only sibling to remain faithful to her family and her roots. Her loyalty was not without its sacrifices as living the ghetto life took its toll on her. Mary had a learning disability. She was dyslexic and couldn't read or write very well. She left high school in grade 9 and worked at Mcdonald's and Burger King for awhile.

Even though she had a small paycheck, it was attractive enough for her future husband who had no intention of working himself. The met because she used to sneak him free meals. Once married, he preferred to stay home and drink beer all day while she continued to work; eight years and three children later, her husband left for another woman. I guess she made a bigger salary.

Once divorced, Mary took as many jobs as she could but it was difficult, she couldn't afford a babysitter. Her deadbeat ex husband was still not working or so he told her. She had reason to believe his new wife forced him to work but could not prove it. There was no money for private detectives or lawyers to fight for child support. Yet Mary never lost her spirit and she would do anything for her three children, including going to food banks to help supplement their meals.

"Mary I just don't know if I could do this," I said.

"Why are you too proud?" "Pride doesn't feed a hungry belly, and I am not about to let my babies starve."

"Of course not, Mary, you could never do a thing like that - no mother could."

"Well then, we're going to the food bank tomorrow as planned. I don't want to see you refusing any food and shaming me. I go there all the time. The volunteers work hard to put the food together and I am not too proud to take it, and neither should you."

I didn't say anymore. I knew I had hit a nerve with Mary. I finally realized that behind that fierce pride of hers was a fear that she couldn't support her own children. My heart went out to her.

The next day, I didn't complain as we stood in line outside the building. We were huddled like cattle waiting for the doors to open so that we could get our handouts. I watched and listened as the community of people waiting, reached out to each other in brotherhood. I saw the love and spirit they shared even while living in abject poverty.

"Hey Joe, good to see you again," someone said. "Sorry I didn't get to the hospital to see you, but my wife was sick at home."

"Yeah, Tim, I heard about that, it's been hard on you too."

"We thought we were gonna lose her for awhile, you know. Gave me a right scare."

"Don't worry; the old gal has quite a few years left in her. You and I will be meeting our maker long before she does."

The poor are not always lazy

I didn't say a word when I handed them proof that I had lost my job, nor did I say a word when I saw them packaging the goods; over ripened fruit, most of which I would throw out when I got home and vegetables that I would have to cook right away or lose them as well.

"Okay, said Mary, tomorrow we go to the next place and get our box and canned goods for the week. They give you three bags full."

"Mary, would you like to come over for supper. I have some hamburger meat and I can fix up a nice spaghetti dinner."

"Thanks hon, but it is getting late and Robbie has school tomorrow. I put all three of them to bed at 7:30. Anyhow I am fixing Kraft dinner; it's their favourite."

I admired her. She took her station in life in stride.

Call me arrogant if you may, but I know that I could not accept the conditions forced upon the poor. I could not accept being huddled like cattle outside a building to get some rotten tomatoes. There are animals in our country that live better than these people could ever dream of living.

According to Stats Cans 2006, single parent mothers had the highest poverty rate of the nine poverty groups identified in Canada. In 2002 it was at an all time high of 52.2%. British Columbia was the province reported as having the most poverty and Prince Edward Island with the least.

While well over 2,000 years ago, a wandering rabbi, reminded us that the poor will always be among us. He took two loaves of bread and five fishes and created a feast for a multitude. There were no rotten fruit there. Everyone was treated equal, rich or poor.

I write about poverty not for people to feel sorry for me, but to expose the injustices of this world. Not every poor person is lazy, most are not.

Mary is an amazing mother. She takes care of her children, keeps an immaculate house, works outside the house, and pays her bills on time. She does not drink or sleep around and does not live above her means, (she still does not have a computer or cell phone). Yet she must go to the food banks to feed her children. I hope that one day when they are grown up they will realize the sacrifices she has made for them.

All photos taken from the public domain

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Charity, Food Banks, Handouts, Helping Hand, Poverty, Poverty In Canada, Poverty In Montreal, Telemarketers, Telemarketing, Unemployed University Graduates

Meet the author

author avatar Carol Roach
Retired therapist and author of two books, freelance writer, newsletter editor, and blogger. I write, health, mental health, women's issues, animal , celebrity, history, and SEO articles.

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author avatar snerfu
15th Aug 2015 (#)

I realize how lucky I am when I read this article. I hope and pray things will improve.

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author avatar WOGIAM
15th Aug 2015 (#)

I have so much admiration and unmost respect for people who do their best to care and provide for their children, i pray things get better for us all.

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author avatar WOGIAM
15th Aug 2015 (#)

I have so much admiration and unmost respect for people who do their best to care and provide for their children, i pray things get better for us all.

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author avatar Stella Mitchell
15th Aug 2015 (#)

This is a well deserved star page Carol.
I too volunteer at a FoodBank every Friday and I am blessed to be able to help those who are struggling to make ends meet , whoever they are .
We do not judge anyone , and I have prayed for many who have come in in tears because they feel so ashamed as if they are beggars .... but , for many they are on low wages and it has to be a choice for them to have heating or food .
Only recently the government stopped giving family credit which subsidized peoples wages and we have seen a greater surge of people in need of food than before .
I feel so privileged to be able to help in some a needy cause , and I thank God for all the people who happily give food etc to enable FoodBanks to continue .
God bless you for this excellent post
Stella ><

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author avatar Kingwell
16th Aug 2015 (#)

Yes Carol there is poverty in Canada and there is no shame in having to turn to food banks when we or our children are hungry. I think the majority of people understand this as there is always an outpouring of food it is reported that food banks are running low. It is difficult to live on the minimum wage in most parts of Canada and many seniors are not ably to pay rent, buy groceries and pay the electric bill in the winter. We have all heard of seniors spending their days at the mall during the winter, because they can't afford heat at home. Blessings.

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author avatar Carol Roach
16th Aug 2015 (#)

it is terrible in Quebec, seniors are actually better off than some people on welfare, and the foods banks never get as much as they need to serve the community

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