Six years ago this spring, I was challenged by low-income people in my community to live for one week on a “food bank diet” to better understand the stress experienced by so many on social assistance who have to make the choice between food and rent each month. The affect on me and my family was profound.

But while that publicity stunt helped raise awareness about hunger in our city, little has improved since. In fact, our local food banks are busier than ever.

Food banks, soup kitchens, and the latest PEI Food Share are permanent fixtures in our present-day society.

While there will always be a need and people to step up to fill it, is it getting to be all too much?

“Overwhelming” was the word used to describe the number of groups and individuals who have a hand in making sure no one on PEI goes hungry.

To look at an informal map of the aid, which Anne Mazer of the Food Security Network put together last week, is overwhelming.

It illustrates 58 different projects tip to tip on PEI, all falling in the volunteer and/or non-profit category.

In the mid- to late 1970s, every single person in one rural Manitoba city received $1,255 a year — roughly $7,500 in today’s dollars.

The amount increased depending on the number of people living in each household, maxing out at $3,969, or nearly $23,500 in 2016 currency, for a family of five or more.

The people in the Dauphin, Man., experiment didn’t have to work to receive this stipend. If they did, their benefit dropped 50 cents for every dollar they received.

Most advocates of basic income only answer the arguments of the right – mainly concerning the willingness to work – and never imagine there can be valid arguments for the left to resist their proposals.

In that sense we have to be grateful to Philippe van Parijs that he addresses social democracy specifically in his defence of basic income. However, his answers are not very satisfactory.

It’s time to fix social assistance.

Ontario’s staggeringly low social assistance rates leave more than 900,000 people in this province underhoused, hungry and sick. That’s because provincial social assistance benefits are arbitrary numbers that come nowhere close to reflecting the real costs of rent, food and other basic necessities in our communities.

The idea of an unconditional basic income is in fashion. From Finland to Switzerland, from San Francisco to Seoul, people talk about it as they have never done. Twice before, basic income was the object of a real public debate, albeit briefly and limited to one country at a time. In both episodes, the centre left played a central role.

The first debate took place in England in the aftermath of World War I …

The second debate took place in the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s …

London’s current primary response to food insecurity among its citizens has been based on charitable models which include foodbanks, food pantries, and soup kitchens/hospitality meals. These are reactive models which seek to address an immediate need for food, but do not go further to address and/or to challenge the underlying cause of that pre-existing need for food. While these models are provided with the best intentions, and are helpful in the moment, they are not capable of building food security in London and, in fact, their very structure tends to increase the experience of food insecurity among the patrons that they serve.