Omar Akieleh, Policy Specialist at the Daily Bread Food Bank: “Fighting to End Hunger – the Present Food Crisis” (Winter 2024 Forum #4 Summary)

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Omar Akeileh

For our final forum of the season Omar Akieleh was introduced to us by Margaret Progovski. She told us that Omar has spent eight years as a policy specialist for the Daily Bread Food Bank. He is the coauthor of the Who’s Hungry report, which has been in publication for over two decades. The report is a call to action from a city in crisis.

Omar told us that the vision of the food bank is to end hunger in our city. The need to provide the services of a food bank has increased dramatically over the last decade. Indeed, there has been a 300% increase since 2019. Now there are 132 agencies and over 200 programs under the umbrella of the food bank.

One in 10 people in the city avail themselves of the service. People may come to the food bank once a week and they receive enough food for three days. New clients are arriving every year, 122,424 just last year. More people who use the food bank now live alone and may have a job (or 2) but still can’t make ends meet. The majority of users are Canadian citizens.   Insufficient income and the soaring cost of housing and groceries are the primary drivers of this need.

Omar said there are various programs in place to help clients, such as a transit discount. Many people are on a disability or old age pension, but this does not provide a living wage.

The call for action is directed at the government, which needs to do more for these clients who are in precarious life situations. Daily Bread does not receive government funding: it is supported by private donations.

As is usual for our forums there were many thoughtful questions and comments from the audience, for example, about the indexing of pensions, the source of fresh produce, Ontario basic income proposals and many others, which Omar answered expertly.

The websites for the Who’s Hungry report are dailybread.ca/whoshungry and northyorkharvest.com/whoshungry.  Here you will find the many facts and figures that Omar shared with us. Watch the video: Who’s Hungry 2023. To support the funding of the disabled pension, visit fundthebenefit.ca.

by Linda Tu