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”?

Properly understood, the minimum wage is a stimulus benefiting the entire economy.

The minimum wage puts a floor under poverty among the working poor. (It would surprise many people to learn that most poor people work.)

It enables entry-level employees, notably youth working their way through college and university and immigrants intent on self-sufficiency, to get a solid start as dynamic contributors to a more prosperous Canada.

And in times of anaemic GDP growth like these, increases in the minimum wage boost economic activity to the advantage of all.

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.”

Ted McMeekin, Ontario’s minister for community and social services, is responsible for improving social assistance. At a community consultation in Peterborough on July 3, he made two notable statements:

“If it were up to me, I would raise social assistance rates by a lot more than $100 a month. But it’s not up to me.”

“I have to tell the story in a way that will marshal the resources. And you and I have to tell our story in a better way.”

While I am encouraged that Minister McMeekin recognizes the inadequacy of current social assistance rates and supports a significant increase, why does he not have the power to raise the rates? And why should such a decision depend on the quality of the stories that poor people tell — why is he making it our responsibility to prove that we deserve lives of health and dignity?

In 1998, when I took over The Stop, a small, under-resourced food bank in a low-income neighbourhood in Toronto, it was like hundreds of other makeshift, church-basement charities popping up across the country. Lineups wound out the door. When you got to the front, you were handed a hamper of largely unhealthy processed food – corporate castoffs – intended to last a few days. It was a place where people kept their eyes on the floor and checked their dignity at the door.

With many of the same people returning regularly – plus new recipients daily – it didn’t take long to realise the food bank was doing little to stem the tide of need. And the fatty, sugary and salt–laden food was a health crisis on a plate. Even with the handouts, people still went hungry, took on debt to pay for food, and were forced to make impossible choices between paying their rent and feeding their kids.

Charitable food banks, it turns out, are good for the corporate food donors who save on dumping fees and cultivate social capital; well-meaning volunteers who feel good about helping the “needy”; politicians who point to them as evidence the problem is being dealt with – everyone, except the people they were set up to help.

What do Andrew Coyne, the Green party, and the Conference Board of Canada have in common? They’re all onto a relatively simple idea that could help solve a significant conundrum being discussed in Ottawa right now: the high toll poverty is taking on the health of Canadians.

According to the CMA, people living in poverty are almost twice as likely to be hospitalized. They experience higher rates of disability, mental illness, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Poverty is making them sick.

But there’s more: poverty is putting an incredible strain on our health-care system and taxpayers’ dollars. Studies have estimated as much as 20 per cent, or $41 billion, of total health-care spending in Canada can be attributed to income disparities.