By Courtney Buchanan
Centretown United Church parishioners recently raised awareness about poverty in the community by handing out “Chew On This” food bags to passersby in the downtown area.
Centretown United and other supporters of International Day for the Eradication Against Poverty participated in the Dignity for All campaign on Oct. 17. The campaign is a multi-partner, non-partisan campaign co-organized by Citizens for Public Justice and Canada Without Poverty, which work toward a poverty-free and more socially secure Canada.
Several members of the congregation and Citizens for Public Justice volunteered their time during the lunch hour to engage people in conversation about the need for action to fight against poverty.
The Chew On This food bags given out included an apple, a magnet and most importantly a postcard to be sent to Jean-Yves Duclos, federal Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, requesting an action plan to help solve poverty in Canada.
“The goal for today is growing awareness for the need, and hopefully people will take advantage of the opportunity to be a citizen,” said Rev. David White. “As a citizen, we have a responsibility to each other.”
White said poverty within the community has always been a prime focus for the church.
“We have a lot of ways that we address the front-line needs of people, but we are also looking at ways that we can advocate for changes in legislation and education around issues of poverty,” said White. He said the Chew On This food bags act as “little reminders” that people are living in poverty right in our neighborhoods.
“We see a lot of people who are having to make the choice between food on the table, utilities and hydro,” he said. “People are being forced to make choices that they shouldn’t have to make about surviving.”
Centretown United volunteers handed out 100 of the bags. Joan Fletcher was one of the several people assisting with the handouts.
“Our church walks the talk!” said Fletcher.
Fellow church member Linda Pollock said campaigns like Dignity for All are very important because poverty is an issue that effects all kinds of families within Canada.
“I feel that all Canadians deserve to have access to healthy foods. Too many Canadians are affected,” said Pollock.
Josephine Adeosun, 20, a social work student at Carleton University who is completing her co-op placement at Citizens for Public Justice, said poverty is Canada’s biggest social issue: “First of all we want to make sure people are aware of this issue. Every 1 in 8 families struggle to put food on the table.”
Adeosun said 84 community groups and churches across Canada participated in the campaign this year, 20 more than in 2016. “It gets better every year. It is always very successful.”
As the handout blitz went on, the Chew On This food bags gradually disappeared from the table set up outside the Bank Street church.
About one in seven Canadians lives in poverty, White said he believes everyone has a role in creating positive change.
“I think too often we consider ourselves to be taxpayers,” he said. “I’d like for us to think of ourselves as citizens.”