3 methods for eliminating food insecurity on P.E.I.

·2 min read
Food banks on P.E.I. have found that demand has risen in the pandemic. (CBC  - image credit)
Food banks on P.E.I. have found that demand has risen in the pandemic. (CBC - image credit)

P.E.I.'s commitment to end food insecurity by 2030 is precedent-setting, says a food insecurity researcher, and she has some suggestions about how the province should go about it.

The P.E.I. Legislature made the commitment in passing the Poverty Elimination Strategy Act, introduced by Green MLA Hannah Bell, earlier this month. The act includes targets government can track to make sure it is making progress on this issue.

"That is absolutely precedent-setting," said University of Toronto nutritional science Prof. Valerie Tarasuk.

"We've seen other provinces and the federal government, you know, talk about food insecurity and different documents. But we've never seen anybody come forward with a commitment like P.E.I. to say we want to end this."

Tarasuk's last report on food insecurity found about 14 per cent of Islanders were living in food-insecure households.

'Minimum wage alone isn't going to fix this problem'

The key to success in the battle is focusing on low-income Islanders, she said.

The recent increase in the minimum wage is a good start, she said. She noted almost two thirds of people who are food insecure are reliant on wages and salaries. Every increase in the minimum wage will help reduce food insecurity, she said.

But she added the province probably cannot achieve its goal without help from the federal government. In particular, with P.E.I.'s seasonal economy the federal government needs to look at how employment insurance works.

"Minimum wage alone isn't going to fix this problem, because if people don't get enough hours of work, you know, a higher wage is only going to be part of the solution," she said.

She also criticized the Canada Child Benefit as being too broadly based.

Programs need to be focused on people with the lowest incomes, says Valerie Tarasuk.
Programs need to be focused on people with the lowest incomes, says Valerie Tarasuk.(CBC)

"Across the board change is a thing that people often call for, but the thing that moves the needle on food insecurity is when the change affects the incomes of the very low-income people," said Tarasuk.

New programs should be more sharply focused on that demographic at the bottom of the income spectrum, she said.

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