It’s an investment, just like any other investment a business or organization makes.

Women’s Place of South Niagara executive director Ruthann Brown compared offering employees “a living wage” to buying the latest computer equipment and software to ensure a business is as productive and efficient as possible.

“Businesses need to reflect, in the context of retaining qualified staff, in the context of the knowledge transfer when you lose staff, and in the context of providing the best services for people, we have to look at human resources as an investment in the work that we do,” Brown said.

Niagara Poverty Reduction Network announced Wednesday that both Women’s Place and Niagara Folk Arts Multicultural Centre are the region’s two newest employers to be registered as “certified living wage employers,” for paying wages of at least $17.57 an hour — the amount of income currently needed to cover the cost of living in the region.

It’s an investment, just like any other investment a business or organization makes.

Women’s Place of South Niagara executive director Ruthann Brown compared offering employees “a living wage” to buying the latest computer equipment and software to ensure a business is as productive and efficient as possible.

“Businesses need to reflect, in the context of retaining qualified staff, in the context of the knowledge transfer when you lose staff, and in the context of providing the best services for people, we have to look at human resources as an investment in the work that we do,” Brown said.

Niagara Poverty Reduction Network announced Wednesday that both Women’s Place and Niagara Folk Arts Multicultural Centre are the region’s two newest employers to be registered as “certified living wage employers,” for paying wages of at least $17.57 an hour — the amount of income currently needed to cover the cost of living in the region.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s May 2017 survey of food and rent costs revealed some slight improvements in the amount of money available to cover these expenses for families living on minimum wage or Ontario Works, with these improvements primarily being a result of an increase in Canada Child Benefit payments to families with children.

“It’s a step in the right direction, although it’s still not enough,” said Jane Shrestha, public health nutritionist at the health unit. “The impact of the increase in child benefits shows that poverty is at the root of hunger, and that there are simple policy changes that will work.

“It takes more than food to solve hunger,” she added.

More than one in 10 local households are “food insecure” according to the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit. In response, officials are launching a new initiative called Rethink Poverty: Changing Minds, Changing Lives.

“We know many low-income earners in the City of Kawartha Lakes are food insecure, especially those working in low-paying, unstable jobs,” says Aisha Malik, a Registered Dietitian with the HKPR District Health Unit. “Working full-time hours at minimum wage no longer guarantees someone can afford basic needs, including food and rent.”

People are asked to visit www.rethinkpoverty.ca to learn more about local food insecurity and what they can do to help solve it. The Rethink Poverty site includes resources and videos about food insecurity, and most importantly a template letter that residents are encouraged to email to their MPPs and MPs. The letter asks area politicians to continue supporting and pushing for income-based solutions like a higher minimum wage, better employment standards and a Basic Income Guarantee. While ‘food charity’ (such as food bank use) may address food insecurity in the short-term, it is not a long-term solution. Poverty is the root cause, and the only way to fix the problem is to provide people with more income, Malik adds.