Why anti-poverty researchers bristle at holiday appeals for food bank donations


Campaigns for food bank donations are a staple of the holiday season, but some Canadian food insecurity researchers say the appeals can be tough to swallow.

Josh Smee, the executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador-based non-profit Food First N.L., says he tends to feel conflicted during the holidays when calls ramp up to donate to local food banks, often accompanied by messaging about ending hunger.

Hunger is an income issue, he said, adding people don’t have enough food because they don’t have money to buy it.

Smee said donating to food banks won’t put more money in the pockets of people who rely on them for meals, but systemic change — such as increasing minimum wages and income support levels — will.

“The reality of it is that we’ve built a system where private charity is filling in for where the social safety net should be,” Smee said in a recent interview. 

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