Manitoba’s Latest Bold Anti-Poverty Strategy

Posted: November 19, 2008 in Uncategorized

Are you a girl who doesn’t have enough to eat? Don’t be ashamed. You’re not alone. There are lots like you and there’s a whole bunch who want to help you. Wanna be a kid who cares? “Be part of the solution” by collecting cans for the local food bank.

That, in a nutshell, is the antipoverty message dispensed to girls, grades 6 to 8, in a book just published by the Manitoba Government entitled “4girls only!”

Maybe I should give you the exact citation:

Not everyone has healthy food available
Many Manitobans don’t have enough healthy, nutritious food available in their homes. They don’t have basics like, milk, bread, cheese, fruit and vegetables, never mind treats like ice cream or candy. Some families rely on food banks to make sure everyone has enough to eat. If you don’t have enough food in your home, there is nothing to be ashamed of — you are not alone. There are many organizations and groups helping hungry families in Manitoba.

Be a Kid Who Cares
Check out Winnipeg Harvest ( for information about the causes of hunger and some solutions. Be part of the solution – collect canned food at your school, birthday party or other event. Ask everyone to bring a tin for the bin. Then, donate the food to a food bank in your area! You can also help out by volunteering your time. There are lots of other ways to get involved by volunteering at soup kitchens, homeless shelters and recreation centres. Try it out!

It’s a graphically lively publication, crammed with what appears to be enlightened advice on health, nutrition, sexuality, relationships, careers and so forth, with links to a bazillion web sites for more info. Still, I doubt very much that it will be used by girls whose families shop at the local food bank – if they ever had computers, they were pawned to pay the rent.

It bears repeating:

Many Manitobans don’t have enough healthy, nutritious food available in their homes.

I wondered how that line got past the arbiters of political taste in the Premier’s office. A little farther on, I found the answer:

Some families rely on food banks to make sure everyone has enough to eat.

Problem solved. Food banks cure hunger pangs. If you wanna be a “kid who cares,” get out and stock those food bank shelves.

According to Statistics Canada data cited by the Government of Manitoba, the incidence of poverty has gone down somewhat — the total number of Manitobans living in poverty fell to 11.4 per cent in 2006 from 14.9 per cent in 1999. That still leaves us in second place, behind BC, in the Child Poverty Steeplechase, according to Campaign 2000.

No, they didn’t refer to that race to the bottom as a steeplechase, or even as a race to the bottom! But don’t let their lack of poetic licentiousness stop you from reading their report, entitled “It Takes a Nation to Raise a Generation: Time for a National Poverty Reduction Strategy.” Poverty is crappy everywhere, but I happen to live in Manitoba, and so I couldn’t help noticing that 14.1 per cent of our kids are officially poor.

Source: It Takes a Nation to Raise a Generation: Time for a National Poverty Reduction Strategy.

Writing in Hunger Count 2007, Winnipeg Harvest’s Karen Flett writes:

Unemployment in Manitoba is at a 30-year low. That means Manitobans are working. In fact, they are working harder than ever. We are all contributing to a growing economy, and even the poorest among us are working more. Yet, one in every three low-income children has a parent working full-time all year, and it is still not enough to pull them out of poverty. A sizzling economy and plentiful jobs aren’t enough to pull poverty rates down to those enjoyed in many countries with less robust economies.

In Winnipeg you see child poverty everywhere you go; it could be in a local playground, schools, streets or community recreation centres. It seems to be endless, and it is a sorrowful situation when children are standing in line with their families at local food banks.

This tragedy is not confined to Winnipeg. According to Flett, more rural communities are requesting food, isolated communities are especially vulnerable and with the high cost of gas, some food banks are unable to deliver food and the folks who need it can’t make it into town.

According to Flett, in 2007, Manitoba foodbanks 43,563 individuals. (3.7% of provincial population). Of these, 47 percent were children.

Getting back to “4girls only!” – I’m happy that Manitoba Status of Women is trying to help girls with the challenges of growing up. I only hope the rest of their advice is more truthful than the lies they are telling them about how to cure hunger in Manitoba.

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