Survey of North Huron Food Share clients on ODSP reveals more support needed

NORTH HURON – Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) recipients make up nearly half of the clients currently relying on the North Huron Food Share (NHFS) program.

NHFS chair Marylin King notified local media to share the voices of some of these clients who recently participated in a survey while picking up food at the Wingham location on Josephine Street.

“On four Wednesdays, from Sept. 14 to Oct. 5, 142 families attended the Food Share during the regular 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. timeframe,” King said. “Seventy-six of those families rely on ODSP for their income.”

King said that the survey was about the Ontario government’s recent announcement that would see ODSP recipients receive a five per cent increase in their monthly assistance, which according to many who rely on government help, is not enough to combat rising costs.

NHFS is a member of Feed Ontario. Feed Ontario is lobbying the Ontario government to double the ODSP pension rather than apply the planned five per cent increase to their pension.

“A single individual receives a housing allowance of $495 and a basic needs allowance of $672, for a total of $1,167 to cover their expenses for a month. When housing is not available at that value it is a concern to consider how these folks are managing,” said King.

The NHFS survey asked: How would doubling ODSP rates change your daily life?

Many of the respondents were quick to mention the ability to purchase food, pay their utility bills in a timely fashion, and be able to afford medication that is not always covered.

One response said, “At this point it would be a game changer. I can no longer afford to feed my family of three as a single parent. If these services didn’t exist, we would starve.”

Another NHFS client brought up an important point, how people treat each other. A change like that would help them to protect their child from bullies just by being able to buy nicer clothes, something many people take for granted.

“Kids are mean to those children who don’t have money for clothes,” said one respondent.

A senior said, “A lot better. I wouldn’t have to worry about groceries. I could help my grandchildren. I’d be in heaven!”

Other clients talked about how they were homeless or nearly homeless, or had to choose between food or bills.

The current state of food insecurity amid the rapidly increasing cost of rent, fuel, and utilities has many people finding themselves in difficult situations. Still, for people who are already living in near poverty, there are few options.

Wingham Community Garden and Orchard coordinator Phil Beard wants to focus on solutions to the food security crisis.

“I think we need to focus on how we can do better, and what better looks like so that we are no longer just treating symptoms of problems,” said Beard. “Food banks were to be an interim solution for people who can’t afford to buy food.”

The community garden is a volunteer-run local food source that “builds community and helps people in need get fresh fruits and vegetables,” Beard added. “The community garden and orchard provides people in the community with the opportunity to learn how to grow fruits and vegetables so that they can establish their own garden and orchard, thus providing them with their own fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Beard believes that people can be inspired to act and help others in need in the community if more attention is given to the struggles that friends and neighbours are having.

Kindness and empathy towards people can go a long way; a sense of belonging, not being judged for being in a difficult situation, and learning how to be inclusive to all members of the community, including those who are unable to work, is an excellent way to teach future generations and create a better world for all.

Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times