The Lakes District Food Bank’s new delivery van is a brilliant initiative, but one underlining deep inequalities in Canada that must be overcome. (David Gordon Koch photo)

End poverty now

The mobile food bank is a great idea and should be supported, but let’s go further

The Lakes District Family Enhancement Society (LDFES) has launched a remarkable new project: a “mobile food bank” that’s delivering groceries to people in remote parts of the Lakes District.

The LDFES is looking for funds to help keep that van running, and it’s something that the community should throw its support behind. But at the same time, we should always be looking beyond these projects to a future where poverty has been eliminated.

As reported in the last edition of the Lakes District News, the mobile food bank is essentially a cargo van equipped with shelves and a refrigeration unit to keep the cargo area cool. Communities being served include Granisle, Tachet, Topley, Southbank and Grassy Plains.

As with any project like this, the key problem is money. Funds for the vehicle itself came from several large institutional charities, including two that represent food banks. The other one is the Walmart Foundation.

It’s worth pausing here to consider the significance of Walmart’s involvement. It’s well known that Walmart’s owners are among the richest people on the planet.

They’re part of a class of billionaires described in the book Dark Money by investigative journalist Jane Mayer of New Yorker magazine. As shown by Mayer, these hyperrich individuals funnel huge amounts of money into political campaigns aimed at guaranteeing their power and wealth, while using charity as window dressing.

The results include low minimum wages that leave workers unable to pay their bills despite working full-time, and poor workplace safety standards that leave people unable to work due to devastating illnesses and injuries. It’s not an exaggeration to say that people stay poor because these billionaires stay rich.

These problems are more acute in the United States, the focus of Mayer’s book, but similar dynamics exist in Canada, as evidenced by the close connections between B.C.’s two main political parties and Jim Pattison, the billionaire whose holdings include Save-On-Foods.

It’s interesting to note that the local Save-On-Foods — formerly Overwaitea, also a Jim Pattison property — has provided donations of close-to-expiry groceries to a food sharing program organized by Lakes Literacy, which carries food to the Southside in a bookmobile.

It’s another laudable effort but one relying on the efforts of a few individuals, and the offerings of the grocery store itself. And those offerings can’t be relied on, according to local community workers.

The point isn’t to criticize the management at the local Save-On-Foods — we should be grateful for their contributions to this inspiring community effort — but to question the economic structure that allows so much wealth to accumulate at the very top while people still experience hunger in our communities.

It’s absurd that we should have to go cap-in-hand to billionaires just to give loaves of bread to poor and elderly people. How many Rolex watches, Rolls Royces, and cellars full of Dom Perignon would it cost them to put in place programs guaranteeing food security for ordinary people?

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