Eat the Rich

Before we even officially launch this site, I want to make something perfectly clear – while TasteTO was created in order to celebrate all of the wonderful food choices we have here in Toronto, we should never ever forget that there are a lot of people in our city who do not have those options. Sure, we’ll be running reviews of nice restaurants, and features on wonderful products and ingredients, but it would be remiss of us not to report on other food issues that affect Torontonians aside from whether this year’s truffle crop is as good as last year’s.

An article in yesterday’s Toronto Star advocates a meal subsidy for people on social assistance, calculating that a family of four receiving benefits has only $396 left after paying rent to cover all of their bills for the month, including groceries.

For instance, the average monthly rent for a three-bedroom apartment for a family of four in Toronto is $1,272. That family would receive $1,668.35 per month in social assistance benefits, child-related tax benefits and GST tax credits.

That would leave only $396.35 for food and other basics, far short of the $538.43 a month called for in the Nutritious Food Basket, which is based on the Canada Food Guide.

$396 – I bet that’s less than what that family of four would pay for dinner at one of the city’s high-end dining establishments. And that total has to include other bills such as utilities, transportation, medication, and clothing.

There’s an imbalance taking place that seems terrifically unfair.

Not to mention that the Nutritious Food Basket relies on a lot of basics and a decent knowledge of cooking for it to work economically. There’s no room for snacks and treats, even cheap ones.

“It’s based on purchasing basic food ingredients,” McKeown said.

“You have to have the skills to cook from scratch all of your meals. … It’s not a rich diet. It takes no account of any kind of pre-processed or prepared food or eating out. It’s just the basics.”

Many would argue that if you work hard for the salary you make, you have the right to spend it any way you see fit, and a two or three or four-hundred dollar meal is your right if you can afford it.

But everyone should have the right to safe, healthy, nutritious food. Ensuring that people eat well now prevents illness and eliminates medical costs in the long run. Children learn better with full tummies when they can concentrate on their school work. Healthy employees take fewer sick days. All of this is well-known. I don’t have the solutions, and I’m not trying to preach, but doesn’t it seem amazingly illogical that we don’t have a subsidy like this in place already? That we’re allowing people to go hungry or forcing them to go to food banks?

And that’s just the folks living on social assistance. The working poor trying to live on Ontario’s crappy minimum wage don’t fare any better.

I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty about their own food purchases – I’m not going to stop treating myself to those $6 single-estate chocolate bars that I love so much – but I’m going to find a way to ensure that TasteTO does its part to advocate for this meal subsidy, for lunch and breakfast programmes in schools, and for a higher minimum wage ($10 should be just a start) so that everyone can afford a delicious and nutritious meal, not just the folks making the big bucks.