Haldimand-Norfolk has the worst record for food insecurity in Ontario, and health officials want more done to fight poverty locally.

Laura Goyette, a dietitian with the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit, urged Norfolk councillors at last week’s board of health meeting to get behind a movement to change the way organizations deal with food insecurity.

“We need to move away from food charity,” Goyette said in a phone interview

There are hard benefits to alleviating poverty.

The problem is that the methodologies that show these benefits tend not to be used in traditional budgeting.

1. We tend not to look at Direct and Indirect Savings

2. We seldom count the costs of Inaction (Cost of Poverty)

3. We almost never do Cost Benefit Analysis

Each of these different types of analyses offers a different way of looking at poverty reduction. By ignoring the offsets, savings and benefits that could be estimated using these methods, decision-makers otherwise miss out on the chance to understand the economic returns related to investment in poverty reduction efforts.

The creation of a broader balance sheet can refute the incorrect conclusion that poverty reduction only relates to those low-income residents who are directly impacted. Reducing poverty has positive impacts for all Torontonians.

Food insecurity is not just about nutrition. It is about hopelessness and despair. It leads to high stress levels, mental health problems, more frequent and serious health problems, poorer decision-making and the inability of children to concentrate at school. It is a vicious cycle that keeps people from realizing their potential, caring properly for their families and contributing to their communities.

Food banks, and the generosity of those who support them and volunteer at them, keep some food on the table.

But as a society, we need to figure out a system that doesn’t rely on welcome but highly variable charitable donations to keep all our citizens healthy, happy and well-fed.