There’s something horribly wrong when Canada produces plenty of food for everyone, yet there are many people who are dependent on food banks to eat, says Graham Riches, the co-editor of a new book looking at how wealthy countries around the world address hunger.

A retired director of the school of social work at the University of British Columbia, Riches co-edited First World Hunger Revisited: Food Charity or the Right to Food? with Tiina Silvasti, a social and public policy professor from Finland.

“Hunger has successfully been socially constructed as a matter for charity and not an issue requiring the priority attention of the state and public policy,” says a chapter that deals with Canada’s response to hunger, which Riches co-authored with Valerie Tarasuk at the University of Toronto.

Faith groups, including the Anglican Church of Canada, have thrown their support behind Dignity for All, a national campaign that urges Ottawa to legislate an anti-poverty plan that will address the plight of 4.8 million Canadians who struggle to make ends meet.

“Despite multiple calls for the development of a national poverty plan by the United Nations, the Senate, and the House of Commons Standing Committee, Canada has not stepped up to the plate,” said a 48-page report released by Dignity for All during a breakfast on Feb. 3 with Parliament’s All-Party Anti-Poverty Caucus. “This means that there is no strategy in place at the national level to address the needs of one in seven people in Canada who live in poverty.”

Recipients of Ontario Social Assistance are living in the deepest poverty in society and falling further and further behind.

That’s wrong as far as Hamilton Community Legal Clinic Staff Lawyer Craig Foye is concerned. Foye and his colleagues have been trying to change this for more than 10 years.

Now, with support from the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, they are taking the case about inadequate social assistance rates to the people of Ontario through an online ideas generator run by the provincial government. TalkOntario.ca provides a forum to present ideas and have others vote on the merit of implementing the plan.

Since they first started to appear 35 years ago, food banks have become woven into Canada’s social safety net. But a group in Ontario says it has a better way to help people in need: shut down the food banks, and put the buying power in the pockets of their clients instead. Operation Sharing’s John Klein-Geltink joins us to explain.

A recent article in the Toronto Star looks at an alternative system to food banks set up in Oxford County, Ontario that asks people to donate money at the checkout counter towards food cards rather than donating non-perishable items. The intent behind this idea is well-intentioned – create a system of assistance that provides greater respect and dignity towards people in need to have some control over their purchases. But is this approach the most effective way to help?

While providing a food card is an improvement over the type of supports we have embraced through the traditional food bank system, it is still a band aid solution to address the shortfalls of low wages, inadequate social assistance rates, high housing costs, and other social safety net needs.

How do you help people who cannot afford to feed themselves? In trying to answer that question just over eight years ago in Woodstock, Ont., Stephen Giuliano started by shutting down the local food bank.

“Programs that are created to specifically address the needs of the poor almost always end up becoming poor programs,” Giuliano says in his sparsely furnished basement office attached to a United Church. “We need a paradigm shift.” He’s the director of Operation Sharing, an organization that offers a range of community service programs to residents of Oxford County, two hours west of Toronto. For decades, a food bank was among those programs, but Giuliano thought it had become a poor program, and he thought he had a better idea.