In the first two months of the pandemic, food insecurity rates increased by 39 per cent, effectively impacting one in seven people. COVID-19 has triggered income shocks that are leaving people in financially precarious situations and at high risk of becoming food insecure or more severely food insecure. This is a serious public health crisis.

Food insecurity takes a steep toll on physical, mental and social health, increasing chronic illness while decreasing lifespan. Severe food insecurity, which equates to reduced food intake, missing of meals and going day(s) without food, makes one more vulnerable to a wide range of conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and back problems. These added pressures on the health-care system are preventable. We just need to ensure that everyone has sufficient income to purchase their own food.

Brian MacLeod is no stranger to hard living.

But the alcohol addict says he was ill-prepared for what he experienced during a stint of living on the streets of Halifax.

“Those people don’t live, they exist,” MacLeod said of his three-plus weeks on the street, borne partially out of necessity and partly from a longtime curiosity.

After a surge in demand this spring and summer, food banks and other food networks are preparing for a possible second wave of COVID-19 and a corresponding rise in need.

But not everyone agrees on what kind of response is best.

Dan Huang-Taylor, executive director at Food Banks BC, said he expects another surge soon, and food banks are planning how to operate in unfavourable conditions. Many locations will set up tents and outdoor heaters and introduce ticketing and appointment systems, he said.

Winnipeg Centre’s NDP MP, Leah Gazan, wants to convert the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) into a permanent basic income that will benefit many groups, such as people who are unemployed, families with low, moderate and fixed incomes, people with disabilities, the working poor and others. She has a motion to put before Parliament.

“COVID-19 has demonstrated that we do have the resources,” she told Global News on Aug. 16. “We must ensure all individuals in Canada can thrive in dignity and that means making investments to ensure basic human rights for all. Motion 46’s goal is to fill the gaps in income and inequalities that have been worsened by the pandemic.”

Canada’s long-criticized social assistance programs may be getting a massive overhaul, according to a report from Reuters. Sources told the media network that with a new federal finance minister in place, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is planning sweeping changes to Canada’s social welfare systems as part of a pandemic recovery program.

Bill Morneau, the country’s fiscally conservative former finance minister, announced he was resigning on Monday. Sources told VICE News that there was a growing rift between the men over Trudeau’s COVID-19 spending programs. Trudeau replaced him with his Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, largely considered to be more progressive than Morneau. She’s now holding down both jobs.

We need a long-term, national basic income project in Canada. And effectively, we’ve had one since March, when the federal Liberals implemented the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. With some 8.4 million workers receiving CERB, millions of parents receiving the Canada Child Benefit, millions of seniors receiving a public pension, plus some 1.2 million Canadians on social assistance, the overwhelming majority of Canadian adults are now receiving some form of monthly government support.

CERB has been monumentally successful, and it’s proved that basic income works. It has stabilized the economy and prevented the worst-case scenario of a full economic collapse this spring. A basic income provides a slab of granite beneath every household income, and it keeps consumers consuming. In Spain, government officials have pledged to make their version of CERB permanent.