Anti-poverty advocates rallied at Saskatchewan’s Legislative Building in Regina on Tuesday.

Among the small crowd of people was Pamela Blondeau, who said she came out to find out what people are doing to end poverty and see if she could help somehow.

Blondeau said she has “lived in poverty for most of my life” and now survives paycheque to paycheque.

She joined many in attendance in calling on the provincial government to take further action to address poverty in Saskatchewan, including introducing anti-poverty legislation.

Living in poverty means skipping trips to the grocery store to pay the rent. It means going without food so your children can eat. It means being twice as likely to drop out of high school. It means having health problems. It also means living in isolation if not being completely alone.

Poverty and social exclusion can affect anyone at any time. These things can even happen to someone you know: a family member, a neighbour, a co-worker or a friend.

Life events like losing your job, separating from your spouse or getting sick can hit you when you least expect it.

We must remember that poverty is anything but a choice, and it has a much greater impact than simply having to stretch your budget. Poverty directly affects childhood development and leaves a mark on individual health.

As we mark International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, it’s time to think about what a plan that would end poverty in Canada would look like. 4 years ago anti-poverty activists launched ChewOnThis!, a campaign for a federal anti-poverty plan. The campaign is based on the fact that without federal government action, it is not possible to eliminate poverty.

Even though Canada is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, 4.8 million Canadians live in poverty. Each month, 860,000 people have to rely on food banks to get enough to eat. At the same time, the share of wealth held by the richest Canadians continues to grow.

“When it is acceptable for 2 families to have as much wealth as the poorest 11 million Canadians, poverty will be at an unacceptable level,” said Larry Brown, President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE).

More than 200 ex-cons are released from prison on to the streets of Newmarket every year without their identification, money, OHIP cards and medication, according to two volunteers who so far have been stymied in their efforts to fix the problem.

“I think the situation would shock the conscience of the community,” said Philip Smith, a member of the Quaker Christian community.

While many prisoners have family or friends who can drive them back to prison to collect their belongings, about 250 a year end up homeless, turning to overburdened social services or at risk of reoffending, he said.

It was a small, brown paper lunch bag, but it was packed with a powerful message.

That’s what volunteers with the Chew On This! campaign were handing out at locations around the city Tuesday, bringing awareness of the levels of poverty and food insecurity in Canada and right here in Kingston.

The local campaign, which coincided with International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, was among more than 30 held across the country. Chew On This! Kingston is a group that represents faith groups, local organizations and concerned individuals.

“We’re bringing attention to the difficulties people living with less face in Kingston and indeed across Canada. People living with less are forced to go to food banks and meal programs. This is a shocking and unacceptable thing in one of the world’s richest countries

Anti-poverty advocates from St. David’s Church took to the sidewalk in downtown Woodstock Monday to drum up support for a federal anti-poverty plan.

“Today is International Day for the Eradication of Poverty,” explained Carrol Morrison of the United Church Women. “We’re drawing attention to the fact that food insecurity affects the 860,000 people who use food banks in Canada.”

Volunteers handed out Chew on This! Campaign lunch bags containing an apple, a magnet and a postcard that says: “We need a plan to end poverty, food insecurity and homelessness in Canada.”

The Ottawa Food Bank is getting funding for a first-of-its-kind study to find out what programs make sure that users don’t get stuck on food bank services.

The two-year study will be done in conjunction with researchers at the University of Ottawa and funded by the Maple Leaf Centre for Action on Food Security.

Rachael Wilson, the food bank’s director of communications and development, said it’s about moving people past needing a food bank.

“We really want to figure out what is the model that moves people beyond food insecurity, which really means moving people beyond poverty,” she said.