You could liken the government’s grocery rebate to one of those cold remedy advertisements on TV offering “fast relief.” Or a weak Band-Aid that won’t stay on. It feels good at first but then starts to hurt again when it falls off.

There is no doubt that getting the rebate is a nice surprise for those who are eligible (depending on income). The money might last a couple of trips to the grocery store (or one if you have a big family). But after that, you’re back where you started  – scrambling to pay the food bill which has gone up significantly over the past year. In fact, the price of food in Canada has outpaced inflation to the tune of nine per cent in the last 12 months.

This one-time payment is not enough to address the food cost crisis, which is why it’s so important to do more to help people who are struggling to put nutrition on the table, pay rent, utilities, and everything else. The sad fact is some people go without meals in order to make their rent payments. Remember the nice roasts you used to buy for a decent price? Those days are gone.

Many food bank coordinators will tell you that an unprecedented number of individuals are relying on food banks today, with demand increasing more than 30 per cent over the previous year.  

Amidst all this hardship, grocery stores continue to make record profits without lowering prices. Some have even been accused of price gouging. Obviously more competition is needed to bring these companies back down to earth. One would think the government would step in to alleviate the situation.

The social assistance rate has to keep pace with the cost of living, and more affordable housing units must be built to stem the homelessness crisis.    

We need long-term solutions, not short term ones. Perhaps it’s time to adopt the food stamp initiative (now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) in the United States. This works by giving low-income families an electronic benefits card which is used like a debit card to purchase food in retail stores.

Speaking of the rebate, why should it be a one-time payment? All levels of government must work together to lessen the burden on low-income families by coming up with real solutions – not by pencil pushers behind a desk, but by people affected by this food crisis.

Lyonel Doherty, editor