Members of the Put Food in the Budget campaign demonstrated outside Liberal Cristina Martins constituency office in Davenport riding in Toronto, in support of a delegation of our leaders who met Cristina Martins Liberal MPP for Davenport.

Immediately upon our arrival Martins’ constituency staff told us that we should have let them know we were going to have a demonstration in front of their office! Imagine them thinking we needed their permission to demonstrate!! You can see we lined up right in front of her office so everyone could see. We handed out leaflets and drivers repeatedly honked their horns in support!

The term food desert describes geographic areas with limited access to healthy food because the distance to the nearest supermarket is more than one kilometre. Living far from healthier options forces many Canadians to fall back on higher priced convenience stores or find ways to get to food stores elsewhere. Both options are costly.

But it turns out locating poor food environments is more complex than just identifying food deserts. Food deserts don’t include areas of the country where nutritious options are nearby but poverty prevents people from being able to make better choices.

Mayor John Tory cast a vote at city council last week which increases fears that he is backtracking on his commitment to tackle poverty and inequality in our city.

Mayor Tory helped defeat a motion that would have protected low-income people from user fee hikes in the city’s 2017 budget.

He also voted against motions to protect child care spaces, social housing spaces and TTC service — all key elements of the city’s anti-poverty plan — from budget cuts.

As members of the Advisory Group on the City’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, we are deeply troubled by these and other recent actions by our mayor and council.

On June 24, news of Brexit overshadowed a development with far greater potential to change your future: Ontario announced that the Honourable Hugh Segal would prepare a discussion paper on constructing a basic income pilot program for the province, launching the most significant opportunity to talk about the country we want to create since the 1970s.

Basic income is a centuries-old idea that has found new life because of two key concerns. The first is about work. Basic income either provides a remedy for a future where robots eat most of our jobs, and those that remain are increasingly precarious; or it liberates us from paid work and unleashes potential.

The second concern is poverty. Efficiency buffs say there are savings to be had by eliminating bureaucracy and reducing public spending on health and crime, while equity advocates seek a more dignified way to support the working poor or those receiving social assistance.

Council has endorsed the establishment of a food bank in the town that could open its doors by the end of the year.

Since last year, an organizing committee has been laying the groundwork for a food bank emboldened with the principal that it is incumbent upon a caring society to provide the basic essential food needs for those less fortunate in its own jurisdiction. On Monday night, council passed a motion supporting a food bank for the town.

“This is, unfortunately, exciting for the community,” said Mayor Bob Sweet adding it has become too difficult for Petawawa residents to commute to food banks in Pembroke.

The Food Bank at the Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS) saw a nine-per-cent increase in usage in 2015, serving 2,484 people (632 of whom were children). Those numbers are up from 2014, when the food bank served 2,200 (about 400 children).

“There was also a significant shift towards long-term locals coming to the food bank,” WCSS executive director Cheryl Skribe wrote in her annual report.

About 25 per cent of food bank users have lived in Whistler 10 years or longer.

According to Graham Riches, emeritus professor and former director of the Department of Social Work at the University of British Columbia, the trend isn’t just affecting Whistler.

“I think it’s a part of this growing inequality, and that needs to be understood, but I think my own sort of analysis of this is that we have to change the conversation.”

“We have to change the conversation from food charity to the right to food, and the right to food is about governments at all levels… being the ‘primary duty bearers’ in terms of their responsibility for the collective social well-being of their populations,” he said.

“My critique is really that (food banks are) undermining the right to food, and the right to food is really about people having sufficient income in their pockets so that they can go into a store like anybody else and purchase the food of their choice,” he said.

Since food banks were first introduced in Canada in the ’80s, they’ve become entrenched in local communities, supported by supermarkets and charity drives.

“The more that happens, the less urgency there is for governments to actually do anything about minimum wages, or ensuring that income supports are adequate, or that housing policy is addressed,” Riches said.