Icy December winds are whipping through Allan Gardens Park at Sherbourne and Gerrard. In front of the conservatory, Sigrid Kneve and a team of volunteers are handing out items from a pile of donated clothes and ladling hot chili into styrofoam bowls for homeless people in the neighbourhood.

“We’re here all winter, every Sunday,” says Kneve. She describes how the grassroots group of six Indigenous women first came together to provide harm-reduction services to street-involved people in one of the most desperate corridors of the city.

“It all started when somebody got sexually assaulted because she couldn’t get a shelter bed,” says Kneve.

The highlight of this week’s visit to the food pantry was definitely the 14 lb turkey. I should be able to make that stretch a bit after the holidays.

Other than that, it was weirdly unholiday like. No typical holiday dinner trimmings, although we did bring home an apple pie. Our food pantry doesn’t do cookie or baked goods usually and if they do, they don’t have enough for everyone so you roll a die when you come in and if you roll whatever number they pick that day, you get to choose one thing. The last time we rolled and won was on husbeast’s birthday last January and yay, they had a whole cake!

Anyway, please don’t listen to the GOP when they say that people who have their food stamps cut will be fine because food pantries will take care of hungry people. That isn’t going to work. The end.

Smiths Falls councillors have rejected a proposal for the town to participate in a pilot project to test the concept of providing a guaranteed basic income in Ontario.

At a meeting of council’s Committee of the Whole Dec. 19, councillors were told that Mayor Shawn Pankow had written to the province in May suggesting that the town might be interested in participating in the project – a step which some councillors said they were unaware of and would not support.

“I think this is something that has merit,” said Councillor Lorraine Allen. “People who live in poverty and have mental illness of one kind of another are struggling.”

However, councillors John Maloney and Dawn Quinn said they viewed the project as throwing money at a problem that could better be addressed through education, and were not in favour of Smiths Falls being a site for the pilot project.

Roxanne Barton knows she should eat three servings of fruit a day, but says she can’t afford to because she receives so little money from the Department of Community Services to pay for her special diet.

“I have one apple a day because that’s all I can squeeze out and I’m constantly running out of milk,” she said Thursday.

“And the food insecurity is so bad at the end of the month like you’re almost to the point you’re so preoccupied with what you’re going to eat.”

There are at least two ways in which income is related to health. First, income allows people to purchase the things that are necessary to survive and thrive, such as nutritious food and safe shelter. Second, income affects health indirectly, through its effect on social participation and the ability to control life circumstances. Put another way, the biggest disease that needs to be cured in Canada is the disease of poverty, and part of the cure is to implement a big idea: A Basic Income Guarantee for all Canadians.

We can eliminate income poverty by ensuring that no one in Canada has an income below what’s needed to achieve a basic standard of living. If we did so, we’d see a considerable improvement in the health of Canadians. The Basic Income Guarantee goes by various names (such as the guaranteed annual income, the negative income tax, and the basic income), and there are different ways to design it. The version I like best works like this: if your income from all sources falls below a certain level, you get topped up to a level sufficient to meet basic needs. That’s it. A true Basic Income Guarantee would ensure that everyone in Canada has an income above the “poverty line.”

No one would argue that donating frozen turkeys to the many holiday campaigns going on at this time of the year is a kind gesture, but is a turkey practical for the low-income people who receive them?

Janet Hamilton, who co-ordinates the teaching kitchen at Moncton Headstart, has heard of people trying to sell their frozen turkeys and said those stories aren’t surprising.

“A person who lives in a rooming house … they don’t have the facilities to be able to cook a turkey,” Hamilton told Information Morning Moncton. “They don’t have a stove, they don’t have an oven, so a turkey to them — it’s a nice thought but they can’t cook it.

“Selling it so they may be able to provide gifts for their children? Yes, I could see that happening.”