Alanda Johnson (left)

Program highlights poverty

North Okanagan students took to the streets Tuesday encouraging people to Chew On This!

North Okanagan students took to the streets Tuesday encouraging people to Chew On This!

the average family accessing the Vernon food bank lives off $125 a week after paying rent

one in eight Canadian households struggle to put food on the table

an average of 451 food hamper interviews were done during June, July and August in Vernon, resulting in $43,000 worth of food given out

Those staggering statistics were shared by the Students Without Borders Academy at Kalamalka Secondary, as they stationed themselves in downtown Vernon Tuesday.

“During the summer months of this year, our local food bank served an average of 635 adults and 306 children, monthly,” said Captain Rachele Lamont of the Vernon Salvation Army Food Bank.

The message comes ahead of International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on Oct. 17. Which is why volunteers across Canada gave up their lunchtimes to participate in the third annual ChewOnThis! campaign.

But as many of the Coldstream students found, their message, tucked in a brown bag even with an apple, was difficult to share.

“Most people think we’re looking for money,” said Grade 11 Kai Rogers.

Most people didn’t stop to hear exactly what the students were offering, but instead turned on their heels with the mention of poverty.

“One lady literally ran away from her,” said Rogers, who was stationed in front of Welk-Mart with Erin Swan.

But they still managed to distribute all 200 of their bags, and could have cashed in on some donations.

“Some people are kind enough to take out their wallets and we were like, ‘oh, no, it’s free,’” said Swan.

There was also comfort knowing that some people were keenly interested in the Chew On This! campaign.

“One lady said she already looked at our website,” said Rogers.

The campaign is presented by Dignity for All which is co-led by Canada Without Poverty (CWP) and Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ), both registered charities.

“In a country as wealthy as ours, it is simply wrong to allow 4.8 million Canadians to struggle to make ends meet,” said Joe Gunn, executive director of CPJ. “Canada urgently needs a vision, and a plan, to turn this situation around.”

ChewOnThis! events were held in more than 30 cities across the country – from Victoria to St. John’s to Whitehorse – including locally in downtown Vernon, at Parliament Hill and in Toronto’s downtown core.

Volunteers handed out 30,000 brown paper bags containing an apple and information prompting people to consider the realities of poverty and food insecurity and join the call for a national anti-poverty plan.

The Dignity for All campaign has heeded the calls for a national plan and created a model plan, born from five years of consultation with 600 organizations and individuals across the country. The model plan, Dignity for All – A National Anti-Poverty Plan for Canada, outlines six policy areas where the federal government can lead in to drastically reduce poverty. The policy areas are: income security, housing and homelessness, food security, health, early childhood education and care, and jobs and employment.

“There is a human right to adequate housing and to adequate food. The rights of almost five million people are being violated and yet the federal government hardly seems concerned. It’s time we had a plan,” said Leilani Farha, CWP’s executive director.

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