What do fast food worker strikes and a DC living wage ordinance have in common with Hunger Action Month? Unfortunately, not enough. A wave of one-day strikes against fast food restaurants is rolling across the country. On August 29, thousands of workers in more than 50 cities protested their low wages, demanding a raise to $15/hour. In Washington, Mayor Vincent Gray has on his desk the Large Retailer Accountability Act that would raise minimum wage for employees of new Walmart stores to $12.50/hour, up from current average of $8.81 nationally. Walmart has threatened to halt construction on three new stores in the nation’s capital if he signs the bill.

Every anti-hunger advocate will tell you that hunger is a symptom of poverty, and poverty is shaped by unemployment, underemployment, and low wages.

Given that, one would expect that anti-hunger groups would be publicly supporting the fast food workers as well as lobbying Mayor Gray to sign the living wage bill. Increasing the wages of workers in the service and retail industries would put a dramatic dent in the food insecurity rates in the U.S.

Unfortunately, almost no anti-hunger group has stepped forward on either issue. The two notable exceptions are Hunger Action Network of NY State, which has called for an increase to the minimum wage for tipped workers to $10/hour, and Bread for the World, whose President has called for an economic bill of rights.

Food insecurity – when people do not have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life at all time – is a problem for 7.7% of Canadian households. A new report by the Conference Board of Canada recommends that school-based meal programs need to be available in all Canadian schools to counteract this problem. A Globe and Mail article agrees that children should be well-nourished to ensure optimal performance, and explains that more effort is needed to better organize the already existing patchwork of food programs.

School programs can provide tremendous relief for some families, and ease the pangs of hunger that affect a child’s ability to learn in school. But they are not enough. Children’s hunger is a symptom of food insecurity and wider social and economic inequality. We can’t just treat the symptom but need to address the cause of the problem through comprehensive policy changes to reduce income inequality and promote healthier living conditions for all children and their parents.

Dealing with poverty takes up so much mental energy that the poor have less brain power for making decisions and taking steps to overcome their financial difficulties, a study suggests.

The research, published Thursday in the journal Science, concludes that a person’s cognitive abilities can be diminished by such nagging concerns as hanging on to a place to live and having enough money to feed their families.

As a result, there is less “mental bandwidth” left over for education, training, time management and other steps that could help break the cycle of poverty, the researchers contend.

“Previous accounts of poverty have blamed the poor for their personal failings, or an environment that is not conducive to success,” said Jiaying Zhao of the University of British Columbia, who led the study, conducted while she was a graduate student at Princeton University.

“We’re arguing that being poor can impair cognitive functioning, which hinders individuals’ ability to make good decisions and can cause further poverty,” she said.

“People already feel stigmatized and inadequate by having to turn to social assistance. If they then cannot manage on the parsimonious benefits they receive, one can only imagine their feelings of sheer helplessness at having to turn to the food banks.”

So says Graham riches on page 126 of Food Banks and the Welfare Crisis …

By getting caught up in the difficult business of acquiring food and “food” for distribution, we are too damned tired to pursue the necessary action for political change that must happen in order to change the system that’s causing the problem in the first place. From a politician’s point of view, volunteerism is perfect; bad policy can be pursued and no one will yell at him about it.

Doesn’t make it right, though.

Charity is failing as a sector largely because it is measured by its ability to become obsolete. I am not referring to any charity or nonprofit in particular, or to charity as the gifting of money/goods/services, but to the mainstream vision of charity as it relates to addressing significant disadvantages within a population. The end game of these charities should be to work towards a point where the populations they serve are no longer disadvantaged. So why is it that so few, if any, charities close down because they “succeeded”?

About 1.6 million Canadian households faced some level of food insecurity in 2011, according to a new report.

That amounts to nearly one in eight families who have inadequate access to regular, healthy meals because of financial constraints.

Households with children under the age of 18 are more likely to be food insecure, says the study, which does not include data from homeless people.

More than 1.1 million children, or one in six, were living in a home where people reported struggling to put food on the table in 2011.

Nunavut, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick had the highest prevalence of children living in food-insecure households at 57 per cent, 27 per cent and 25 per cent respectively.

A new report by researchers at the University of Toronto shows that almost four million Canadians are struggling to put the food they need on the table because of food insecurity.

“The impact of this situation on children, families, communities, the health care system and our economy cannot be overstated,” said Dr. Valerie Tarasuk, a nutritional sciences professor at U of T’s Faculty of Medicine and principal investigator for PROOF, an international team of researchers committed to the reduction of household food insecurity.

The report was prepared by PROOF, a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)-funded research program initiated to identify effective policy interventions to address household food insecurity. The project was led by Dr. Tarasuk, who said the findings should be a wakeup call for government.

“The problem is not under control and more effective responses are urgently needed,” Tarasuk said. “The cost of inaction is simply too high.”