Depending on a person’s perspective, 82 could be considered an insignificant number. Or it could just be a number large enough to silence a roomful of people.
In fact, 82 is the number of children who, in just one school in South Dundas, receive a two days supply of food each weekend through Operation Backpack. Eighty-two children!
Stunned silence greeted that announcement at a recent fundraiser for the Backpack program organized by the House of Lazarus. The announcement shone a light on an issue that has far too often been ignored by many in this community: the ongoing real issue of poverty.
Operation Backpack, Community Food Share, and many other programs in South Dundas exist because we have a poverty issue right here. Yet many in our community don’t see that the issue exists.
South Dundas is not alone with this problem. Many communities in Eastern Ontario face community poverty and need. The roots of this situation are too numerous to be fully outlined within this editorial space. Suffice it to say hunger exists: it is 2019, yet hunger still exists!
Thirty years ago, the Canadian government signed a pledge to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000. That target has failed. The rate of income and food insecurity has, in fact, increased over that same 30 year period. The income inequality gap has also increased. And these difficult trends may actually be felt more within rural communities such as South Dundas.
There are people right here in our community who must confront some harsh realities – must worry about how they will put food on the table, heat the house, pay the bills this week. Their ongoing struggle ought to put other local issues into perspective.
People forget that a government’s role, ideally, is to see to the things that we cannot, as individuals, do on our own. If members of our community are struggling, and by all indications, some are, where should our priorities really be? Perhaps more focus should be placed by our civic leaders, and by all our citizens, on meeting the actual, and real income and food insecurities many of our neighbours face.
One day, Operation Backpack and Community Food Share may no longer be needed in this community. However, given the rate at which we are currently making progress, that could be quite a while.