Hands-on knowledge provides insight to poor

NANAIMO: Re: Let’s see poor’s qualifications, Letters, Sept. 25.

To the Editor,

Re: Let’s see poor’s qualifications, Letters, Sept. 25.

Matt James raises a series of important questions about how we at Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank meet the needs of the most vulnerable in our community.

The fact that there are those who may not need the services, but utilize it none the less, means that there is less food for those who truly need it.

Loaves and Fishes shares this concern and is currently considering options for establishing a means test for clients.  To this end, on Sept. 19 the Loaves and Fishes Means Test Committee met. As well, on Sept.    24-25 I attended the Food Banks B.C. board meeting in Kelowna and spoke to seven different food banks to get input and practices on this issue.

James identifies fancy automobiles and cigarettes as red flags that call into question an individual’s need for food bank services.

With regard to fancy automobiles, there are many people who drive their poor neighbours and friends to the food bank as an act of charity and generosity. Community social workers often bring people to the food bank. Could some of these fancy automobiles be from Good Samaritans and social workers?  Second, since May, 4,730 different people have used Loaves and Fishes services. In August, 3,012 different people used our services. That means that 1,718 people (a full 36 per cent) used Loaves and Fishes in May, June or July but did not use the service in August.

More often than not, the short-term need for food bank services is brought on by a cash flow crunch (excessive debt brought on by a car loan?) not a completely depleted personal net worth. Could some of these fancy cars be from the people who use our service on a short-term basis brought on by a cash flow crunch?

Many food bank clients struggle with addiction issues of which cigarettes are one. How we help people out of addiction and conversely how we enable someone in their addiction is clearly a discussion we need to have as a society.

Should people who have an addiction be denied access to the food bank?  Perhaps, but it raises challenging questions.

How do we determine if someone has an addiction? What addictions are on the ‘do not serve list’? Are we going to deny service to children whose parents have an addiction?

I would invite James and anyone who has had their perception of the hungry tainted to volunteer at Loaves and Fishes and meet the clients first hand.

This gives a better insight into the lives of food bank clients than being employed at a business next door to the food bank.

Our next volunteer orientation is 3:30 p.m. Wednesday (Oct. 3) at 1009 Farquhar St.

Please come out.

Peter Sinclair

executive director

Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank

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