Once in awhile I donate to food banks, but I have a idealistic problem with that as I think that government should deal with the needy and that reforms should be taken to make our society more equitable. I also firmly believe in the Zen motto "no work, no eat" and have no desire to help feed lazy people.
I don't think that the government does an effective job of helping the needy, particularly the hungry needy or those they now call "food insecure". And the recession has dramatically escalated the scope of the problem and often overwhelmed the resources of food banks, many of which in the U.S. saw a 40% increase in demand over the past two years.
There has been a dramatic increase in the number of households classified as “food insecure.” In 2008, 21 percent of all households with children fell into this category, the highest percentage since 1995 when yearly measurement started, and a nearly 25 percent increase from 2007. While enrollment in federal food and nutrition assistance programs is up since the start of the recent recession (e.g. Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program participation increased by 17.5 percent between July 2009 and July 2010), we have yet to see whether increased enrollment is providing families with access to sufficient nutritious food for children.
The recession has exacerbated child hunger throughout the nation
And the situation is similar in Canada
2010 Hunger Count Report
Every year since 1989, Food Banks Canada has issued a report on the level of usage experienced by member organizations. And, as the organization says “Affiliate Member food banks, and their respective agencies serve approximately 85% of people accessing emergency food programs nationwide,” its annual report presents a comprehensive view of the situation.
The 2010 report, released on November 16, 2010 says that “Over the last two years, food bank use in Canada has risen by 28% – an unprecedented rate of growth. After four consecutive years of decline, demand for food banks has skyrocketed since the 2008-09 recession.”
The report says that increased food bank demand was seen in every province in the country.
Almost One Million Canadians Need Food Assistance
According to Food Banks Canada, in March 2010, 867,948 people went to member outlets to emergency food supplies. That’s the highest number ever. Of these, 38% are children and 11% reported some employment income. People receiving government-funded social assistance represent more than half (51%) of the clientele, and those on disability support payments accounted for 15%. Employment Insurance recipients formed six percent of those needing food help...
Stubborn Effects of the Recession
A Canadian Press report (“Food-bank use Skyrockets Due to Lingering Recession: Report.” November 16, 2010) comments that, “people are going hungry partly because they lost their jobs during the recession, and now their unemployment benefits are running out.
“Or, they’ve been able to find new jobs, but often the jobs are in service industries and don’t pay enough to support them.”
So, many of those who now access emergency food resources, like food pantries, are the working poor, people who have been hard hit by the recession because their wages are so low, or people who lost jobs in areas like construction, or people who had their work hours cut back, or working single mothers who struggle to feed their children but may often go hungry themselves, or those whose unemployment benefits have run out and they cannot find jobs, or seniors with limited incomes who may have to choose between buying medications or buying food, or formerly middle class families where the breadwinner has lost a job, their resources have been depleted, foreclosure/homelessness may be looming, and they suddenly find themselves in the painful position of having to ask for food assistance so they can feed their children and themselves.
These are not "lazy people", Hawkeye, these are often very hard-working people who have been most severely affected by the recession, or have become victims of layoffs and the high unemployment rate, or who can't financially cope with rising prices in all areas--including the costs of food. And, until the government does a better job of helping such needy people, they will be in need of donations from the private sector, because they are going hungry right now--hunger isn't something that can wait until later. And many groups and organizations that previously provided donations of food or money to food banks have cut back on those because they have also felt the impact of the recession. So, more than ever, donations from individuals are needed.
I cannot share your particular Zen view ("no work no eat") of this situation, Hawkeye, and I am more likely to think, "How would I feel if this was happening to me?"--a notion which I find much more in accord with Zen philosophy, and its compassionate nature--when I am made sadly aware of the fact that some of my neighbors might be going hungry, or that entire families were suddenly showing up at soup kitchens in my area when the effects of the recession first became apparent.
If you don't want to donate to your local food banks that's fine. But if you think that those in immediate need of such services can wait for the government to help them, or that they are nothing more than "lazy people", you are not only lacking in compassion, you are blind to the reality of the situation.