Despite anti-poverty efforts, hunger in Canada has not decreased – and it has now reached epidemic levels in Nunavut, where almost half of households suffer from food insecurity, according to a new study by University of Toronto researchers.

“We know that social assistance recipients are particularly vulnerable, and the latest numbers show rates of food insecurity as high as 82% among people reliant on social assistance in Nova Scotia and 83% among those in Nunavut. At the same time, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the majority of food insecure households in our country are working families.” said Naomi Dachner, co-author of the report.

This introductory article by guest editor, Elizabeth McIsaac of Maytree, provides an overview of the strategies and policies for rights-based poverty reduction in Canada beginning with the need for common language and goals.

Referring to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights endorsed by Canada in 1972, McIssac identifies many challenges and complexities and the obligation to implement the Covenant at all levels of government. In particular, she notes that individuals cannot currently claim their rights through the courts in Canada.

The Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society is facing criticism over a rule change made last year barring anyone who uses the service from full voting membership.

The membership rules undermine the dignity of people who use the service, said member Jim Spencley, who has used the food bank services intermittently over the last three years.

“We can get their charity but we can’t contribute to the process,” he said. “I find that offensive.”

The cost of eating healthy in Algoma has risen 20 percent over the last five years, according to data compiled by Algoma Public Health.

That’s almost three times the rate of inflation, and it doesn’t include this year’s spike in food costs attributed to the low dollar and the resulting high cost of importing the 81 percent of fruits, vegetables and nuts that Canadians buy from other countries.

The Ontario Society of Nutrition Professionals in Public Health says that food banks and meal programs are an ineffective response to this food insecurity problem.

The group is pushing for a basic income guarantee and increased social assistance rates to reflect the actual costs of nutritious food and adequate housing as reported by the nutritious food basket program and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. rental income reports.