Just before Christmas the ruling majority at City Hall voted down a request for an emergency $500 000 donation to the city’s desperate food banks.
Food banks have become an essential feature of life in Montreal.Their resources are stretched to the limit. As the director of Cuisines Communautaires, Elaine Groulx said a growing number of her clients could be described as “…working poor.” After paying for rent and the winter’s onerous Hydro bills, these people have very little left to pay for food or anything else.…and Christmas makes it worse, especially when there are children in the house.”
City Hall spokesman Martin Tremblay said the city refused to pass the motion because discussions were being held with provincial authorities to work out a three year anti poverty initiative which includes help for the city’s many food banks. As matters stand the city hopes the province will invest progressive amounts of $7M, $8M and $9M in various urban anti-poverty initiatives over the next three years.
Annie Samson, the mayor of one of the city’s poorest boroughs, angrily said “It’s a pity some children went hungry this Christmas just because the city’s administration wants to wait for the province to come up with a three-year anti-poverty plan,”
While food bank directors all over the city agree they could use a long-term government policy to help them develop their agendas, they also said they need immediate help to deal with the constant pressure to maintain their services with a shrinking supply of both food and other resources.
“It’s thoughtless,” said Wendy Baker. As the co-coordinator for the NDG Food Depot’s direct activity services, Baker said municipal leaders know how the city’s food banks fill in the gaps between poverty’s real needs and the grim realities of a monthly welfare check.