Keynote speaker Valarie Tarasuk, principal investigator with PROOF Food Insecurity Policy Research, stressed that the problem is avoidable.

“There are way too many people in our communities who are struggling to afford the food they need,” she said.

“The research on this problem is clear: food insecurity is preventable. Interventions that improve the adequacy and security of incomes for those at the very bottom of the income spectrum also improve their food insecurity.”

Mike Balkwill, provincial organizer of the Put Food in the Budget campaign, took Tarasuk and Ellery’s message a step further.

“Income security is the only policy that leads to food security,” he said. “Food banks and other forms of food charity do not. Poverty in Ontario is growing. The Liberal government’s poverty reduction strategies have not worked because they failed to raise social assistance rates.

“People who volunteer and donate to food banks must demand that social assistance rates be raised to levels that guarantee people lives of health and dignity. Unless the rates are raised to adequate levels food banks will require people to volunteer for another 30 years of service.”