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Winnipeg's largest food bank is hoping to see concrete strategies on how to fight poverty in Monday’s provincial budget.

Recently, Winnipeg Harvest has participated in consultations with the provincial government on their Poverty Reduction & Social Inclusion Strategy. Harvest has a specific budgetary wish list that includes:

  • A Poverty Reduction Plan that includes clear targets and timelines to address the root causes of poverty and create pathways to help those experiencing poverty
  • Increased funding for new affordable housing units, including building at least 300 new social housing units annually for five years.
  • Reinstate the cuts to Rent Assist that took effect in July of last year in order for those struggling to pay for housing to have more money left over for food
  • Increase the basic needs budget for Employment and Income Assistance recipients, including additional funding for training and job readiness

Winnipeg Harvest Executive Director Keren Taylor-Hughes says another big issue they want to see addressed is rising rates of child and senior poverty. According to Winnipeg Harvest, children continue to top the list of people relying on food banks at 41 per cent and seniors are becoming increasingly reliable on them as well.

"We need a strategy that has timelines and targets, because the first iteration did not so it wasn't as effective as it could have been," Taylor-Hughes said. "If we have timelines and goals we actually have something to work towards."

Taylor-Hughes says when the province first developed the Poverty Reduction & Social Inclusion Strategy, they had a list of 21 indicators to determine the level of poverty in Manitoba. However, that list did not include food bank usage. She wants the province to add that to the list because people using a food bank aren't necessarily homeless and may just be supporting a family on a smaller salary or struggling to pay for food because of other expenses. 

"Winnipeg Harvest has been tracking food bank usage over the years and since 2008 that usage has jumped 58 per cent," Taylor-Hughes said. "I think that's a clear indicator that the issue of poverty and the need for food are linked together."  

According to Winnipeg Harvest, in 2017, 180,000 Manitobans were living in poverty with 1 in 3.7 children being affected by poverty. Winnipeg Harvest says it feeds around 63,765 people each month and found the child and family poverty rate in Manitoba is 27.5 per cent, more than 10 per cent above the national average.