Nearly half of basic income recipients were severely food insecure: Survey

By Roderick Benns

Nearly half of the thousands of Ontarians collecting basic income reported severe food insecurity.

In the baseline survey, 48.4 per cent reported experiencing severe food insecurity. Survey comments made to the Basic Income Canada Network indicated that the higher quality food recipients were able to purchase while on the pilot improved their lives — sometimes dramatically.

“People with physical and mental health problems saw improvement, through the remission of migraines, fatigue and depression, for example, or relief from the symptoms of fibromyalgia, celiac disease or IBS. People succeeded in gaining or losing weight to be healthier. Some were also better able to manage other conditions or disabilities,” according to a report prepared by BICN.

“With the pilot we were able to change the way [our daughter] ate ……in order to live a normal life. She has since blossomed and overcame depression and anxiety with the proper foods she is getting….. such a blessing to our family,” reported Gary.

“I was beginning to lose weight slowly because I could actually afford better options,” said Maryanne.

Jennifer reported that she had gained weight. “I am in normal range now.”

Stephanie wrote that she could “afford to use small local groceries closer to me.” Having more income to support the local economy is a key asset of basic income policy.

“I have been able to buy more fruit, vegetables and more often, meat. I hardly ate meat on ODSP because it is too expensive. I can even go out with friends again for dinner which empowers me and makes me feel so good,” reported Ron.

Food Insecurity and Housing

It’s difficult to talk about food insecurity in Ontario – including Kawartha Lakes – without also bring up housing affordability.

According to Feed Ontario, with 90 per cent of food bank clients living in either rental or social housing, these housing shortages and rental spikes have a huge impact on them.

The average food bank client spends 70 per cent of their income on housing, which puts them at high risk of homelessness.

“According to our research, after paying for housing and utilities, 45 per cent of food bank clients only have $100 left over, leaving little else for essentials like food, transportation and medicine,” according to the Feed Ontario website.

The issue of affordable housing and how basic income was helping with that, too, was previously covered in the Advocate.

More than 58 per cent of people collecting basic income were trying to change their housing situation, according to a survey conducted by BICN, involving more than 1,500 of the 4,000 basic income pilot recipients. Now, 424 responses have come back, representing more than 10 per cent of those receiving basic income in Ontario. The Lindsay Advocate is pleased to be the media partner highlighting these stories. Names have been changed to protect identities.

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