Contributed to The Globe and Mail
Nov. 17 2013
‘I’m sorry, Eric, but there is nothing we can do for you.” Sharp pain and anger grew in my chest as I stared across the large wooden desk. I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes.
“Are you going to be okay? Let me know if I can do anything.” The words of the associate dean were meaningless, a performance dictated by institutional etiquette.
“You mean I have to drop out of law school, in my third year?” Absurd, a comedy. I wanted to laugh and cry.
“We can make arrangements so that you can take an academic leave of absence for up to two years.”
It sounded like I would be planning the funeral of my academic career. As I walked away from the student service offices at the University of Ottawa, I felt I had reached the end of a long journey – a journey around an oval track, carrying a boulder on my back. The boulder was poverty, and its grinding physical and psychological strain had finally brought me to my knees.
The university shrugged its shoulders as the “hard work equals success” myth dissolved in front of me. Don’t come to law school if you are poor, was the message. Don’t try to become a lawyer if you are poor.
I was dropping out because I couldn’t afford to continue. Tuition for the year was $15,000 and the government’s cap on student loans for me was $12,000. I was denied a line of credit by five commercial banks because I had a low credit score and no one to co-sign. I had no one to co-sign because my mother made $19,000 last year.
What is it to be “poor”? For me it was being raised by a single mother on disability; public housing; the food bank; parcels from the Salvation Army at Christmas; seeing my brother stabbed nearly to death, police take my mother to a psychiatric hospital and Children’s Aid take my four-year-old niece. And not being able to do anything about any of this.
What does poverty look like? There’s the day to day: You open the fridge and there’s a mustard or mayo sandwich for dinner. Then the month to month: You wait for your bus, are buzzed like cattle into an Ontario Works cubicle to get your cheque, hang your head as a smiling volunteer hands you a box of food. You carry your box home on the bus, wearily eyeing the canned string beans and cranberry jelly from someone’s Thanksgiving.
You can use these images to tell a story, but what does poverty feel like? Usually it starts with anger. You are angry at yourself, your family, and the indifferent forces that eventually grind you down. You push against these feelings because you don’t have the luxury – you have to keep on. You feel vulnerable. You teeter between risks not taken because the difference between failure and success is homelessness. Or you take stupid risks because you have nothing to lose.
I learned early on that anger and envy will paralyze you. You need to deal with it somehow. My mother had prayer and Jesus Christ; my brother turned to drugs. I did what I was told and became what is known as a member of the “respectable poor.” To be in this group you study hard, stay out of trouble, respect your scummy restaurant bosses and borrow on your Visa card at 25 per cent interest. Most importantly, you buy into the myth “where there’s a will there’s a way.”
My generation has reluctantly accepted the myth amid “austerity” and a new type of poverty. We’re entering the work force just as employers, governments and unions are hedging themselves against falling pensions, benefits, pay and jobs. Two years ago we said “enough” and occupied parks across the world. Our neighbours eventually got annoyed and gave police and politicians the nod to push us back to our Starbucks jobs, where we exist between the dreams of our parents, our useless degrees and the reality of minimum-wage jobs. We make your lattes to the tune of our own contempt.
For those who have made it out of this youth unemployment crisis, there is a sense you are either lucky or connected. We also feed the myth. We need it. Why else would we borrow $50,000 for an education?
Meanwhile, school administrators, politicians, employers and bureaucrats prune away to make that education inaccessible. The law school adds an extra box to a scholarship application that puts it out of reach, or raises tuition another $1,000.
I faced a phalanx of administrators at the University of Ottawa, each pushing me along with a version of “No, we can’t help you until you pay your tuition.” When I got to the top of the authority chain I felt like I was meeting the all-powerful Wizard of Oz. But unlike the wizard, the associate deans weren’t incompetent – they just didn’t care. I gave them a short story of my life and current circumstances and they told me my only recourse was to apply for an “emergency bursary.” But since my financial hardship was “foreseen” I didn’t qualify.
I am by far not the only one who’s faced this crisis. Since I opened up to my peers, many have told me they are in the same boat. This is why there are so few working-class lawyers.
Fortunately for me, my own story has a happy ending. This summer, when I’d accepted I would have to drop out, a friend offered to co-sign a loan. Knowing I would graduate on time meant I could apply for articling positions, which led to an offer that I hope will be my one-way ticket out of poverty. I know I got lucky.
Eric C. Girard lives in Ottawa.
Nov 6, 2013
– The number of poor people in America is 3 million higher than the official count, encompassing 1 in 6 residents due to out-of-pocket medical costs and work-related expenses, according to a revised census measure released Wednesday.
The new measure is aimed at providing a fuller picture of poverty but does not replace the official government numbers. Put in place two years ago by the Obama administration, it generally is considered more reliable by social scientists because it factors in living expenses as well as the effects of government aid, such as food stamps and tax credits.
Administration officials have declined to say whether the new measure eventually could replace the official poverty formula, which is used to allocate federal dollars to states and localities and to determine eligibility for safety-net programs such as Medicaid.
Congress would have to agree to adopt the new measure, which generally would result in a higher poverty rate from year to year and thus higher government payouts for aid programs.
Based on the revised formula, the number of poor people in 2012 was 49.7 million, or 16 percent. That exceeds the record 46.5 million, or 15 percent, that was officially reported in September.
Nov 05, 2013
The number of Canadians using food banks has fallen off slightly but still remains near record highs almost four years after the end of the economic recession.
The annual study by Food Banks Canada shows that more than 833,000 people relied on food handouts during one snapshot month earlier this year, compared with 872,379 the previous March. More than a third of them were children.
“Underlying this small drop is a concern of enormous proportions: food bank use remains higher than it was before the
recession began,” the report states.
“During a time of apparent economic recovery, far too many Canadians still struggle to put food on the table.”
Low-income jobs are the culprit, the report found, and there’s an abundance of them thanks to a Canada-wide loss of manufacturing jobs over the past three decades.
The annual HungerCount study provides one of the most up-to-date national indicators of poverty. The latest Statistics Canada numbers show that 8.8 per cent of people were living below the low-income cutoff in 2011.
Who is going hungry in 2013? More than half of those turning to food banks are families with children, the report concludes.
Twelve per cent of households asking for help were currently employed, while another five per cent were recently employed.
Eleven per cent of those using food banks self-identify as First Nations, Metis or Inuit, and another 11 per cent are new immigrants to Canada.
“Both of these groups continue to face unacceptable levels of poverty, and are forced to turn to food banks as a result,” the study found.
Food Banks Canada called on governments to invest in affordable housing, better income supports and to “increase social investment in northern Canada to address the stunning levels of food insecurity in northern regions.”
“We lose billions of dollars each year trying to address the health and social consequences of poverty after it takes its toll, rather than preventing it in the first place,” the study found.
Katharine Schmidt, the organization’s executive director, said the while federal and provincial governments are attempting to do more to combat hunger, the numbers remain disturbingly high.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” Schmidt said in an interview.
“One child going to bed hungry is one child too many, and we have 300,000 of them in this country.”
She added that while the country’s thousands of food banks are ”really doing their best,” they do not represent a long-term solution because they cannot address the root causes of hunger.
“We believe that government does care, that they do see that they have a role to play,” she said. “The challenge is actually implementing a change in policy.”
In July 120 million Indian children ate their free, government-provided lunch. Fifty five of them were left writhing in agony, some dying within hours. So what happened? It’s a mystery that’s consuming modern India.
On one terrible day in July, going to school in Gandaman cost 23 children, all younger than 10-years-old, their lives. They died after eating their school lunch, a meal provided under a nationwide government program. “I feel I shouldn’t have sent them to school that day. They would still be alive”, Chanda Devi, the mother of two of the deceased children says sadly. Investigators quickly discovered that the food was tainted with a cheap and readily available pesticide. Was that a result of gross negligence or was it – as some locals believe – a deliberate, calculated act?
“That day [the principal] used a stick and forced all the children to have the food”, Ranjeet, the brother of one dead boy, says. The school principal is now facing charges of murder and conspiracy – but is she actually culpable or a convenient scapegoat? The chemical is highly toxic and used on crops throughout the region, but India’s chemical king, Rajju Shroff, says he sees no problem in using a product considered gravely hazardous by the WHO and banned in many countries. “If you prove that monocrotophos was in the food, I’ll close down my factory.”
The Mustard Seed Food Bank Ministry has been a beacon of light against poverty in Victoria for over 30 years. It has helped thousands of individuals and families cope with the hardship of poverty. But they are in difficult times. As the economy sours further more people are relying on less and less available food because times are tough and grocery prices have exploded within the last few years. Everyone is feeling the pinch.
The organization raised around half a million dollars for much needed renovations, as the building it is housed in needed some serious upkeep. All the supplies, goods, food for the volunteers, and labor were all donated or volunteered.
Great way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Good people doing good things.
From the Mustard Seed website:
The Mustard Seed is a non-profit organization fighting hunger and restoring faith in Greater Victoria. We provide many crucial services for any and all people in need. From food to friendship, we aim to meet the physical, relational, and spiritual needs of the whole person. We have an active weekday drop-in center that offers all sorts of services such as chapel, hair cutting, nursing, a clothing bank, access to home starter kits, and more. We regularly serve weekend meals and offer a host of other weekend activities. We run the largest Food Bank on Vancouver Island, providing nutritious hampers to our neighbours in need throughout the week. Our skilled staff offer advocacy, counseling, addictions recovery, and many other resources.
Above all, the Mustard Seed is a place of acceptance and unconditional love. We cultivate a community of compassion where all are welcome. As we fight hunger and poverty together, our staff and volunteers meet our guests where they’re at. We strive to break the cycle of poverty in our guests’ lives by offering them a hand-up, reminding everyone of their human potential and worth.
Ryan having a grand time volunteering and making friends in this gorgeous day
James Kasper entertained the crowd of volunteers at lunch time.
All and all, it was a great day for volunteer work, good food, good music, and a chance to meet new friends.
Adding to poor patients’ incomes works to decrease the health effects of poverty, Canadian doctors are finding.
The Canadian Medical Association is asking people across the country how poverty affects their health as part of its national dialogue tour. The group said that social and economic factors determine 50 per cent of health outcomes.
Dr. Gary Bloch sees poverty as a disease in his family medicine practice in Toronto’s inner city. Dr. Gary Bloch sees poverty as a disease in his family medicine practice in Toronto’s inner city. (CBC)
At his inner city family practice at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital, Dr. Gary Bloch puts income information at the top of the medical history he puts on his charts.
“Treating people at low income with a higher income will have at least as big an impact on their health as any other drugs that I could prescribe them,” Bloch said.
To that end, Bloch asks all patients what their income is and where they get it, along with the standard questions about past medical history, surgeries and medications.
“I do see poverty as a disease,” Bloch said.
In his practice, prescribing income could mean assessing whether a patient’s illnesses might qualify for provincial or federal disability supports and employment insurance. He helps fill in applications and connects patients with programs such as basic financial planning.
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“I absolutely see the improvement in my patients’ health,” Bloch said. “For patients that we do manage to get on income supports, their lives often really turn around.”
Increasingly, physician groups are recognizing poverty as a disease, not simply from lifestyle factors such as smoking, but also from the toll the stress of being poor can take on the body.
Children bear ‘toxic stress’
For children in particular, the strong and frequent bombardment of “toxic stress” from living in substandard housing with adults who are also stressed can set the stage for lifelong damage, doctors say.
Such high stress stunts healthy development by “disrupting developing brain architecture,” the American Academy of Pediatrics said in a technical report last year.
Dr. Bloch is teaching medical residents how to weave in questions about income when taking a patient’s history. Dr. Bloch is teaching medical residents how to weave in questions about income when taking a patient’s history. (CBC)
“Toxic stress can lead to potentially permanent changes in learning, behaviour and physiology,” the U.S. group concluded.
Statistics Canada has reported that growing up in poverty is associated with increased rates of death and illness including diabetes, mental illness, stroke, cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal disease, central nervous system disease and injuries.
“We do know that our child poverty rates are an embarrassment,” Dr. Richard Stanwick, president of the Canadian Pediatric Society, said from Victoria. “Do we want … a society where a certain group is permanently disadvantaged? Unfortunately, that’s what poverty does.”
If children live in a neighbourhood that is considered unsafe, then parents may feel more comfortable keeping them indoors watching TV rather than playing outside, said Stanwich, who works at the Vancouver Island Health Authority. “That alone is contributing to obesity, is not contributing to the brain development and is probably putting these individuals at a disadvantage.”
A nutritious diet and access to opportunities for recreation could do more for health care than building more hospitals, Stanwich said.
The CMA’s dialogue on poverty wraps up in St. John’s next month.
Our networks – including our nationality, class and family – are critical in the formation of our character. This is because our actions are heavily determined by the unconscious, which is shaped by social context.
So our chances of success in life are hugely influenced by the networks we belong to. But these networks are becoming increasingly segregated, especially by social class, which is undermining social mobility.
The opportunity to access different networks can be life-changing. New York Times columnist David Brooks says: “If you can surround a person with a new culture, a different web of relationships, then they will absorb new habits of thought and behaviours in ways you will never be able to measure or understand”.
New networks not only help build character, they open doors. A recent Social Market Foundation report, Disconnected, found that the biggest barrier for young adults from low-income backgrounds in accessing internships in the professions was not lack of pay, but lack of contacts in the sector they wanted to work in. Indeed, Professor Ronald Burt’s work reveals that those who sit between many different social networks tend to be the most successful.
Several studies have shown that what matters most to a child’s development is the characteristics and actions of their parents. For those brought up in disadvantage, it is of course right that resources are focussed on supporting parents with the difficult task they face. But escaping poverty also means having the opportunity to learn from and access different networks, throughout the life-cycle.
But recent social trends – some exacerbated by successive government reforms – are eroding access to new networks. The best evidence shows social mobility is already stagnating. It could worsen even further in the future.
Starting in the early years, which are the most critical for shaping a child’s educational development, US evidence shows that formal childcare in a socially mixed environment for children from deprived backgrounds can greatly enhance their future school test scores. But childcare is very expensive in the UK and, unlike any other part of the education system, remains unaffordable for some families. Only 43% of two year olds from deprived backgrounds are experiencing formal childcare, compared to 72% from advantaged backgrounds. As state support is now reducing and costs continue to rise above inflation, the growing private contribution for childcare costs will be too expensive for many more low-income families.
At the other end of the education system, at university, those young people from the poorest backgrounds are much less likely to go. This is a prime reason for stagnating social mobility in the UK, since getting a degree is crucial for advancement in the modern labour market. Too many young people from poorer backgrounds are not accessing an experience that dramatically improves their career prospects, since graduates earn on average £160,000 more over their lifetime than a similarly qualified young person who does not hold a degree. They are missing out on acquiring key contacts for career progression: a quarter of graduates say they got their job through a friend they met at university.
Without the necessary education qualifications, those from the poorest backgrounds could still be socially mobile either through the labour markets or family formation. But accessing life-enhancing networks through work or relationships is now much less likely than in the past.
First, the labour market is more geographically divided, with the expensive London and South East offering the most lucrative careers. Since the 1990s, the mobility of employees between different regions has plummeted. If it’s too expensive to move to areas that contain industries that deliver the most significant returns, there is little hope of social mobility.
Second, partnering is becoming more socially entrenched. People are increasingly likely to partner with people from similar backgrounds. More women are going to university and getting better careers. They, alongside educated men, are deciding to delay marriage and childbirth. The norm in lower-income communities, on the other hand, is to start a family earlier. So the pool of partners people from certain backgrounds can choose from is socially narrower.
Consequently, the UK now has now many more work-rich families with both highly educated men and women. This has dramatically raised household incomes and increased income inequality. International evidence shows there is a strong relationship between high income inequality and low social immobility.
People from different social backgrounds in the UK are much more divided: educationally, geographically, financially and socially. But those from more modest backgrounds need entry to the networks those from more advantaged backgrounds have: to improve their educational levels and open up opportunities. If Government wants to reverse our growing social gheottisation and foster more social mobility, it must improve accessibility to life-changing networks, in particular early years education.
Our government assistance programs are sorely lacking and are not designed to give a person a hand up but more to keep a person down. If not for our charitable organizations and churches our poor would starve or freeze to death.
We have many working homeless or working people who can only afford a room. Wages have not kept up with the cost of living. My cousin works full time at a big box store. She is happy she is making almost $11 per hour, but even at that 40 hrs a week works out to $1760 before taxes.
A two bedroom apartment in a decent neighborhood will cost her $1000 (that’s a conservative estimate) then you have your power which would average $100/mn, phone & internet $100, vehicle insurance $100/mn, and say $400 a month for food. She is already in the hole because income tax would have taken at least 20%. And she still has to come up with clothes, school supplies and costs, vehicle repairs, dental care, medical expenses and prescription, never mind birthdays, Christmas. Etc.
Once a person enters the poverty pit it becomes increasingly difficult to climb out. Things like dental care become “luxuries”, our government will pay for fillings or extractions and they will give you money to buy a blender if you can’t chew your food.
I wonder how many of the people in power who makes these decisions have caps or bridges, implants etc. If they had to function in society day to day without their cosmetic dentistry I wonder where their self esteem would be, how motivated would they be to put themselves out there when they know they will never get the high paying job because people with rotten teeth don’t get hired for those jobs because there are so many highly qualified people vying for the same job if there are two equally qualified people appearances become the deciding factor.
If a person lives in a low rent neighborhood odds are there is more crime and house insurance is higher, the rate of burglaries is higher, teen gangs are more prevalent, students are more likely to drop out and teenage pregnancy is common. It. Becomes harder to maintain a positive outlook and the self confidence required to get ahead when you live pay cheque to pay cheque and slowly slip further down the hole.
Slum landlords throw an illegal suite together in the basement and get away with charging a phenomenal price for inadequate housing because people are desperate. I know a woman who pays $560 for a room no bigger than 10×15, she shares a kitchen and bathroom, is surrounded by drug addicts and prostitutes and has lost her self confidence and any hope of a better life. God help them all if there is a fire.
Its wrong, so wrong I get so angry. If everyone just stopped being so frickn’ concerned with the all mighty buck and charged a reasonable amount for decent accommodation, if people who have gave what they can if we all did our little bit to help no one would have to suffer.
The government isn’t going to solve this problem, they can’t. “We” have to step up to the plate and each individual has to do their part. Every one has something to contribute. Example: An elderly lady living on her own and needs help maintaining her home but can’t afford to put a suite in her basement. A few construction trades people volunteer their services, contractors donate materials from jobs ( there is always extra paint etc on big jobs )| stores donate slightly damaged stock. The woman rents the suite to a single mom who does the lawn mowing, window washing etc for reduced rent. The old woman gets to stay in her home longer, is safer because she has someone there, the young mother gets to raise her children in a decent neighborhood, has the pleasure of coming home to a place she isn’t ashamed to live, isn’t concerned for her safety and has the opportunity to perhaps get ahead plus has the satisfaction of knowing she is helping the little old lady. Win win win! And bonus the child grows up witnessing respect for the elderly, helping your neighbor, and community spirit. You look at what people throw away what stores destroy and throw away. I think stores that throw away usable merchandise should be fined.
I know people are eager to punch holes in my idealized solution and in a perfect world it would work. I don’t have a clue how to bring it to fruition.
Just me on my soapbox again! I’ll go now.
Great post btw! (Smiles sheepishly and gets down from her soapbox)
I came across a great comment in another blog:
by Honie Briggs
Lady with a truck | December 14, 2011 at 11:22 AM
“This is a topic I can get pretty hot about. As someone who went from owning a 2800 sq ft home to being homeless in a matter of about 6 years. Long story, won’t get into details here. But it was free trade that caused the business I worked for to close their doors.
I “thought” I was a charitable person, adopted a family at Xmas, gave to charity yada yada yada and I passed judgment on people I knew nothing about. I have heard my own voice echoing in my ears as I replayed my judgments back on myself.
The thing about prejudice and judging others is that it comes from lack of education and fear. If people accept that they are only a pay cheque or two away from homelessness themselves and under the right “wrong” circumstances they could lose it all they might feel obliged to help those in need. If they can convince themselves that a person is homeless or living in poverty because of an addiction, mental disability, laziness, apathy, whatever, they can tell themselves it could never happen to me.
As for the stuff in dumpsters, businesses in Canada do have a choice and I know of some locally who handle it in such a way as to give the needy some respect.
A grocery store puts all their past date items on a trolly and wheels it out to the dumpster at the same time every day. I personally have never gone to get food (I have always worked and had money even if I was homeless so never went to the food bank, soup kitchens etc because I felt I didn’t need it) but I was heard it is bagged up and the trolly is left outside for an hour and then what’s left is thrown in the dumpster. That way the store doesn’t have the mess of people digging in the dumpster and the people keep their self respect by not having to go in the dumpster.
A restaurant/deli premakes their sandwiches at lunch time and found that poor people would come and ask for the left over sandwiches after the lunch rush was over. The owner decided to make extra sandwiches every day and put them in one corner of the cooler. He told a couple of the homeless people where they were and to help themselves and spread the word. He now feeds about a dozen sandwiches a day to the needy.
Some store destroy everything they throw away for fear someone might take it out of the dumpster and use it. I have talked to businesses and they say if someone gets it out of the dumpster they won’t come in the store to buy it. Do you really think someone with money would be climbing in dumpsters?
I have furnished my place almost solely from free stuff off of Craig’s list, dumpsters, or by picking up stuff people put out for the garbage collector. I haul scrap metal for a living, most of it goes to the scrap yard but when I can I prefer to sell it for reuse.
People have to wake up, waste and greed is destroying this world as is the “me first” attitude. What is that saying? A guy doesn’t go to the defense of all these different groups and then in the end they come after him and there’s no one left to defend him? Shoot I can’t remember.
Sorry for going on and on.“
Honie Briggs | December 14, 2011 at 11:44 AM
3rd November 2011
Shocking figures revealed today that one in 15 people in America is now living in poverty.
The number – a record high – is spread widely across metropolitan areas as the country’s economic troubles continue to bite.
And almost 15 per cent of the population are also now on food stamps, it emerged yesterday.
The ranks of the poor applying for food stamps increased by a worrying 8.1 per cent over the past year to make a total of 45.8 million.
Hand out nation: America’s economic troubles are continuing to bite with almost 15% of the US population now on food stamps
The increase in poverty is believed to have been caused due to the housing bust pushing many inner-city poor into suburbs and other outlying places and shriveled jobs and income.
‘There now really is no unaffected group, except maybe the very top income earners,’ said Robert Moffitt, a professor of economics at Johns Hopkins University.
‘Recessions are supposed to be temporary, and when it’s over, everything returns to where it was before. But the worry now is that the downturn — which will end eventually — will have long-lasting effects on families who lose jobs, become worse off and can’t recover.’
Reliant: The ranks of the poor applying for food stamps increased by a worrying 8.1% over the past year to make a total of 45.8 million (stock photo)
Split societies: The top ten cities where there is the greatest divide between rich and poor
Once-booming Sun Belt metro areas are now seeing some of the biggest jumps in concentrated poverty.
1 Mississippi 21.5%
2 New Mexico 20.7%
3 Oregon 20.6%
4 Tennessee 20.2%
5 Louisiana 19.9%
About 20.5 million Americans, or 6.7 per cent of the U.S. population, make up the poorest poor, defined as those at 50 per cent or less of the official poverty level.
Those living in deep poverty represent nearly half of the 46.2 million people scraping by below the poverty line. In 2010, the poorest poor meant an income of $5,570 or less for an individual and $11,157 for a family of four.
That 6.7 percent share is the highest in the 35 years that the Census Bureau has maintained such records, surpassing previous highs in 2009 and 1993 of just over 6 percent.
After declining during the 1990s economic boom, the proportion of poor people in large metropolitan areas who lived in high-poverty neighborhoods jumped from 11.2 per cent in 2000 to 15.1 per cent last year, according to a Brookings Institution analysis released on Thursday.
As a whole, the number of poor in the suburbs who lived in high-poverty neighborhoods rose by 41 per cent since 2000, more than double the growth of such city neighborhoods.
Graph: Suburban households are less likely to receive SNAP benefits, but usage is on the rise with about nine per cent of households
Poverty for Americans 65 and older is on track to nearly double after factoring in rising out-of-pocket medical expenses, from nine per cent to more than 15 per cent.
Poverty increases are also anticipated for the working-age population because of commuting and child-care costs, while child poverty will dip partly due to the positive effect of food stamps.
The number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell to the lowest in five weeks, government data showed on Thursday, in a hopeful sign for the struggling job market.
Initial jobless claims totalled 397,000 in the week ending October 29, down from a revised 406,000 claims the previous week, the Labor Department reported.
The claims number was lower than the average analyst estimate of 401,000, and provided a positive reading on the depressed job market ahead of Friday’s October jobs data.
It was the third time in six months that weekly initial jobless claims have fallen below 400,000.
Last week’s reading was the lowest since September 24, when claims stood at 395,000.
But applications need to fall consistently below 375,000 to signal sustainable job growth.
They haven’t been below that level since February. Applications have been above 400,000 for all but two weeks since March.
The figures come a day before the government releases its October jobs report.
Analysts expect employers added 100,000 net jobs, nearly the same as the 103,000 added in September. The unemployment rate is expected to stay at 9.1 per cent for a fourth straight month.
Employers have added an average of only 72,000 jobs per month in the past five months. That’s far below the 100,000 per month needed to keep up with population growth. And it’s down from an average of 180,000 in the first four months of this year.
And with one in 15 in poverty, more than one in four of working age are now tapping food stamps.
According to Department of Agriculture figures, worst hit were people in Mississippi, where more than 21 per cent were recipients.
One in five residents in Tennessee, Oregon, New Mexico and Louisiana also depended on the hand outs – formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – to eat.
Officials fear the numbers may swell even more in the coming months as people battle financial hardship and record unemployment.
But one reason for the rising number of recipients was that many states have waived requirements limiting the assets food stamp applicants could own, said the Wall Street Journal.
The number of food stamp users exploded after the recession hit in late 2007 and has continued growing even though the downtown is officially supposed to be over.
Researchers from the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire estimated that the percentage of Americans receiving food stamps increased by 61.2 per cent between 2007 and 2010.
Reliance on the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Programme was very high among single parents, rising ten per cent.
In 2010, 42 per cent of single mothers and 25 per cent of single fathers relied on the stamps. In rural areas it was ever higher at one in two single mothers.
States also made changes to make it easier for residents to tap into the program, such as waiving requirements that limited the value of assets food stamp recipients could own.
This is believed to have been caused due to the housing bust pushing many inner-city poor into suburbs and other outlying places and shriveled jobs and income.
‘There now really is no unaffected group, except maybe the very top income earners,’ said Robert Moffitt, a professor of economics at Johns Hopkins University. ‘Recessions are supposed to be temporary, and when it’s over, everything returns to where it was before. But the worry now is that the downturn — which will end eventually — will have long-lasting effects on families who lose jobs, become worse off and can’t recover.’
The institute also found that 14.6 per cent of rural households were relying on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programme in 2010.
Suburban households are less likely to receive SNAP benefits, but usage is on the rise. About nine per cent of suburban households received SNAP in 2010, up from 5.4 pe rcent in 2007.
Jessica Bean, a vulnerable families research associate with the Carsey Institute, said she thinks rural residents have traditionally been less likely to collect SNAP benefits because they live in remote areas where it’s hard to access social services and are more concerned with the social stigma.
In a rural area, she said: ‘When you go into the grocery store and you pull out your food stamps card, everybody knows you.’
Just one in ten married couples with children are using the government-funded food benefit.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2056864/Handout-nation-Food-stamp-map-America-reveals-hotspots-15-population-government-help.html#ixzz1dD7u7Uab
But this experiment happened much closer to home. For a four-year period in the ’70s, the poorest families in Dauphin, Manitoba, were granted a guaranteed minimum income by the federal and provincial governments. Thirty-five years later all that remains of the experiment are 2,000 boxes of documents that have gathered dust in the Canadian archives building in Winnipeg.
Until now little has been known about what unfolded over those four years in the small rural town, since the government locked away the data that had been collected and prevented it from being analyzed.
But after a five year struggle, Evelyn Forget, a professor of health sciences at the University of Manitoba, secured access to those boxes in 2009. Until the data is computerized, any systematic analysis is impossible. Undeterred, Forget has begun to piece together the story by using the census, health records, and the testimony of the program’s participants. What is now emerging reveals that the program could have counted many successes.
Beginning in 1974, Pierre Trudeau‘s Liberals and Manitoba’s first elected New Democratic Party government gave money to every person and family in Dauphin who fell below the poverty line. Under the program – called “Mincome” – about 1,000 families received monthly cheques.
Unlike welfare, which only certain individuals qualified for, the guaranteed minimum income project was open to everyone. It was the first – and to this day, only – time that Canada has ever experimented with such an open-door social assistance program.
In today’s conservative political climate, with constant government and media rhetoric about the inefficiency and wastefulness of the welfare state, the Mincome project sounds like nothing short of a fairy tale.
For four years Dauphin was a place where anyone living below the poverty line could receive monthly cheques to boost their income, no questions asked. Single mothers could afford to put their kids through school and low-income families weren’t scrambling to pay the rent each month.
For Amy Richardson, it meant she could afford to buy her children books for school. Richardson joined the program in 1977, just after her husband had gone on disability leave from his job. At the time, she was struggling to raise her three youngest children on $1.50 haircuts she gave in her living room beauty parlour.
The $1,200 per year she received in monthly increments was a welcome supplement, in a time when the poverty line was $2,100 a year.
“The extra money meant that I was also able to give my kids something I wouldn’t ordinarily be able to, like taking them to a show or some small luxury like that,” said Richardson, now 84, who spoke to The Dominion by phone from Dauphin.
As part of the experiment, an army of researchers were sent to Dauphin to interview the Mincome families. Residents in nearby rural towns who didn’t receive Mincome were also surveyed so their statistics could be compared against those from Dauphin. But after the government cut the program in 1978, they simply warehoused the data and never bothered to analyze it.
“When the government introduced the program they really thought it would be a pilot project and that by the end of the decade they would roll this out and everybody would participate,” said Forget. “They thought it would become a universal program. But of course, the idea eventually just died off.”
During the Mincome program, the federal and provincial governments collectively spent $17 million, though it was initially supposed to have cost only a few million.
Meant to last several more years, the program came to a quick halt in 1978 when an economic recession hit Canada. The recession had caused prices to increase 10 per cent each year, so payouts to families under Mincome had increased accordingly.
Trudeau’s Liberals, already on the defensive for an overhaul of Canada’s employment insurance system, killed the program and withheld any additional money to analyze the data that had been amassed.
“It’s hugely unfortunate and typical of the strange ways in which government works that the data was never analyzed,” says Ron Hikel who coordinated the Mincome program. Hikel now works in the United States to promote universal healthcare reform.
“Government officials opposed [to Mincome] didn’t want to spend more money to analyze the data and show what they already thought: that it didn’t work,” says Hikel, who remains a strong proponent of guaranteed income programs.
“And the people who were in favour of Mincome were worried because if the analysis was done and the data wasn’t favourable then they would have just spent another million dollars on analysis and be even more embarrassed.”
But Forget has culled some useful info from Manitoba labour data. Her research confirms numerous positive consequences of the program.
Initially, the Mincome program was conceived as a labour market experiment. The government wanted to know what would happen if everybody in town received a guaranteed income, and specifically, they wanted to know whether people would still work.
It turns out they did.
Only two segments of Dauphin’s labour force worked less as a result of Mincome – new mothers and teenagers. Mothers with newborns stopped working because they wanted to stay at home longer with their babies. And teenagers worked less because they weren’t under as much pressure to support their families.
The end result was that they spent more time at school and more teenagers graduated. Those who continued to work were given more opportunities to choose what type of work they did.
“People didn’t have to take the first job that came along,” says Hikel. “They could wait for something better that suited them.”
For some, it meant the opportunity to land a job to help them get by.
When Doreen and Hugh Henderson arrived in Dauphin in 1970 with their two young children they were broke. Doreen suggested moving from Vancouver to her hometown because she thought her husband would have an easier time finding work there. But when they arrived, things weren’t any better.
“My husband didn’t have a very good job and I couldn’t find work,” she told The Dominion by phone from Dauphin.
It wasn’t until 1978, after receiving Mincome payments for two years, that her husband finally landed janitorial work at the local school, a job he kept for 28 years.
“I don’t know how we would have lived without [Mincome],” said Doreen.”I don’t know if we would have stayed in Dauphin.”
Although the Mincome experiment was intended to provide a body of information to study labour market trends, Forget discovered that Mincome had a significant effect on people’s well being. Two years ago, the professor started studying the health records of Dauphin residents to assess the impacts of the program.
In the period that Mincome was administered, hospital visits dropped 8.5 per cent. Fewer people went to the hospital with work-related injuries and there were fewer emergency room visits from car accidents and domestic abuse. There were also far fewer mental health visits.
It’s not hard to see why, says Forget.
“When you walk around a hospital, it’s pretty clear that a lot of the time what we’re treating are the consequences of poverty,” she says.
Give people financial independence and control over their lives and these accidents and illnesses tend to dissipate, says Forget. In today’s terms, an 8.5 per cent decrease in hospital visits across Canada would save the government $4 billion annually, by her calculations. And $4 billion is the amount that the federal government is currently trying to save by slashing social programming and arts funding.
Having analyzed the health data, Forget is now working on a cost-benefit analysis to see what a guaranteed income program might save the federal government if it were implemented today. She’s already worked with a Senate committee investigating a guaranteed income program for all low-income Canadians.
The Canadian government’s sudden interest in guaranteed income programs doesn’t surprise Forget.
Every 10 or 15 years there seems to be a renewed interest in getting Guaranteed Income (GI) programs off the ground, according to Saskatchewan social work professor James Mulvale. He’s researched and written extensively about guaranteed income programs and is also part the Canadian chapter of the Basic Income Earth Network, a worldwide organization that advocates for guaranteed income.
GI programs exist in countries like Brazil, Mexico, France and even the state of Alaska.
Although people may not recognize it, subtle forms of guaranteed income already exist in Canada, says Mulvale, pointing to the child benefit tax, guaranteed income for seniors and the modest GST/HST rebate program for low-income earners.
However, a wider-reaching guaranteed income program would go a long way in decreasing poverty, he says.
Mulvale is in favour of a “demo-grant” model of GI that would give automatic cash transfers to everybody in Canada. This kind of plan would also provide the option of taxing higher-income earners at the end of the year so poorer people receive benefits.
A model such as this has a higher chance of broad support because it goes out to everybody, according to Mulvale. GI can also be administered as a negative income tax to the poor, meaning they’d receive an amount of money back directly in proportion to what they make each year.
“GI by itself wouldn’t eliminate poverty but it would go a heck of a long way to decrease the extent of poverty in this country,” says Mulvale.
Conservative senator Hugh Segal has been the biggest supporter of this kind of GI, claiming it would eliminate the social assistance programs now administered by the provinces and territories. Rather than having a separate office to administer child tax benefits, welfare, unemployment insurance and income supplement for seniors, they could all be rolled into one GI scheme.
It would also mean that anybody could apply for support. Many people fall through the cracks under the current welfare system, says Forget. Not everybody can access welfare and those who can are penalized for going to school or for working a job since the money they receive from welfare is then clawed back.
If a guaranteed income program can target more people and is more efficient than other social assistance programs, then why doesn’t Canada have such a program in place already? Perhaps the biggest barrier is the prevalence of negative stereotypes about poor people.
“There’s very strong feelings out there that we shouldn’t give people money for nothing,” Mulvale says.
Guaranteed income proponents aren’t holding their breaths that they’ll see such a program here anytime soon, but they are hopeful that one day Canada will consider the merits of guaranteed income.
The cost would be “not nearly as prohibitive to do as people imagine it is,” says Forget. “A guaranteed minimum income program is a superior way of delivering social assistance. The only thing is that it’s of course politically difficult to implement.”
Vivian Belik is a freelance journalist based in the frozen northlands of Whitehorse, Yukon. She was, however, raised in Manitoba where she has spotted many of the provinces small-town statues including the giant beaver in Dauphin.
Food charity FareShare sees a 20% rise in demand, much of it from people hit by unemployment and benefit changes
Britain has seen a sharp increase in the number of people unable to afford to feed themselves at the most basic level, thanks to the worsening economic climate and changes to the benefit system, according to a survey by a leading food charity.
In the past year FareShare, which redistributes waste food from major food manufacturers and supermarkets to social care charities, has seen a 20% rise in the number of people it is feeding – from 29,500 a year to 35,000.
And many of those, blighted by rising unemployment and business failures, are coming from the sorts of stable family backgrounds once considered immune to the worst effects of recession.
The new findings, which are backed up by research from other organisations working in the same field, will make sobering reading for the Conservative party as it gathers in Manchester this weekend for its annual conference, where the direction of the government’s stringent deficit reduction programme will be carefully scrutinised.
The number of charities that have signed up to receive food from FareShare, which operates from 17 sites across the UK, has also risen in the past 12 months, from 600 to 700. More than 40% of those charities are recording increases in demand for their feeding services of up to 50%.
“People in our communities are going to bed hungry because they can’t afford to feed themselves,” said Lindsay Boswell, chief executive of FareShare. “This is a huge problem and it’s right here, in our neighbourhoods, on our streets. This is outrageous enough even before you factor in the thousands of tonnes of good food thrown away each year. It’s illogical and frankly immoral that these problems coexist.”
The food that FareShare distributes would generally end up in landfill sites. It is discarded by major supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s, Tesco and M&S, because it’s out of date, or surplus to demand or as a result of printing errors on the packaging.
It’s estimated that three million tonnes of food like this is being wasted in Britain every year, of which FareShare gets hold of about 1%. “Demand for our food is going up far faster than we can source it,” Boswell said. “As a charity we started out purely interested in liberating waste. We are an environmental charity that gets bloody angry about food being thrown away. However, we’re clear that it is the alleviation of poverty which now leads what we do.”
One of the major changes seen by FareShare and organisations like it is in the type of people they are now feeding. Where once it was single homeless and the chronically destitute now it’s increasingly families and working people who have fallen on hard times.
In the past year, the Salisbury-based Trussell Trust has seen the number of people it is feeding rise from 41,000 to 61,500. It runs more than 100 food banks around the country, distributing emergency food parcels to people in dire need who have been referred to it by social care organisations and charities.
“We’re seeing a big increase in what you could call, for want of a better phrase, normal working people, those who have lost their jobs or seen their own businesses go under,” says Jeremy Ravn, manager of the food bank network. “The big problem is that the welfare state is not reacting fast enough to need.”
An increasing time lag between benefits claims being accepted and the date when payments come on stream is, Ravn says, resulting in some people suffering serious hunger.
A spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions denied there had been any changes to the system for paying benefits which could be blamed for the sharp increase in the number of people requiring food aid.
However he said that a series of reforms, including the controversial plan by work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith for a universal credit to replace a slate of existing benefits, was now more necessary. “This will help us get back to a working welfare state where people don’t have to rely on food parcels,” the spokesperson said.
• More than one in five workers now earn less than a “living wage”, says the Resolution Foundation thinktank. Its head, Gavin Kelly, said the research showed how pervasive low pay is.
Ghalia Mahmoud gains huge following with her mix of thrifty cuisine and all-inclusive message for a new Egypt
Armed with a mismatched set of cheap aluminium pots, a propane gas stove and a warm smile, a 33-year-old housemaid from Cairo has become the unlikely sensation of post-revolutionary Egypt – an inspirational symbol of a new era.
TV viewing usually soars during Ramadan and Mahmoud shot to fame. In her traditional dress, and in a studio mocked up to look like the kitchen of an average working-class Egyptian, Mahmoud’s brand of budget-conscious cuisine has won her a growing following in a country gripped by economic uncertainty.
She announced at the end of one show that she was giving some Eid treats she had made to her Christian neighbours – a small message of tolerance that chimed with the national mood as people look forward to a “new Egypt”.
“The old government only treated the crème de la crème with respect, and the rest of us were invisible,” said Mahmoud last week. “I hope that for my two girls the country will be different.
“I’m really happy that people like me,” she added. “I love them too. On the streets they wave and ask, ‘Are you really the Ghalia?’” Her daily trip to the local vegetable market, in the poor neighbourhood of El-Warak to buy food for her family of 15, now takes twice as long as she is besieged by well-wishers.
It was TV executive Muhammad Gohar who decided to put Mahmoud, his sister’s maid, on to his new network, Channel 25 – named in honour of 25 January, when the uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak began. First he gave her the test of creating a meal that would feed a family of eight for £3. For Mahmoud, one of nine siblings in a fatherless family, it was something she had been doing all her life. The underclass in Egypt, who have been living on about £150 each a month, has now taken her to their hearts, calling her the “cook of the 25 January revolution”.
“This is the new Egypt, a new era, a new television, a new people-to-people talk, instead of authoritarian-to-people,” said Gohar. “A lot of poor people see themselves in her.”
The producer of the show, Habiba Hesham, said during the programme she could hardly keep up with the incoming phone calls from viewers. “She has an energy and a sense of humour that suits the people,” said Hesham. People phone in to ask questions or just to say hello. With her broad smile, Mahmoud tells her audience: “You women are smart and you can cook anything if you try.”
Along with her pots with missing handles, her measuring cups are made of plastic and the only electrical device is a well-used blender. On her round tin table are vegetables bought from Cairo’s street vendors – courgettes, tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, onions – and she follows simple, authentic recipes, such as mashed fava beans, stuffed vine leaves and cabbage, with cucumber and cheese on the side. As for meat, the expense means it is only cooked for one meal a week, on Fridays, the Muslim sabbath.
But Mahmoud also talks of recipes she will be producing for Egyptian Christians during Lent: “In poor Egyptian neighbourhoods, there is no Muslim-Christian divide. That divide was of Mubarak’s making,” she told her audience. She is breaking the divides between rich and poor too – in one show she took a call from a wealthy group of giggling girls out in their Mercedes who wanted to make her “delicious lentil soup”.
Mahmoud gets calls from children who tell her: “Auntie Ghalia, we love you.” Along with her new Facebook page there is another site declaring: “Ghalia Mahmoud for president!!” In the new Egypt, anything could be possible.
Thursday, June 09, 2011 by: Neev M. Arnell
(NaturalNews) The average price of staple foods will more than double in the next 20 years, Oxfam warns. The world is entering an era of permanent food crisis, which is likely to be accompanied by political unrest, and the situation will lead to an unprecedented reversal in human development, it said. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environme…)
International prices of staples such as maize could rise by as much as 180 percent by 2030, according to research published last week.
The Oxfam report comes following the UN warning in May that food prices are likely to hit new highs in the next few weeks, triggering riots and unrest in developing countries.
The number of hungry people globally is increasing rapidly as food production lags behind demand. This comes following decades of steady decline in global hunger rates.
“The high-price situation is not something that’s just going to vanish over one season,” Abdolreza Abbassian, a senior economist at the Rome-based United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, said in an interview before the index was released. “The fundamentals are still what they are, a very tight situation for almost all commodities.”
The average global price of cereals jumped by 71 percent in April. Milk futures climbed by 0.8 percent in Chicago in May, while corn more than doubled in the past 12 months on speculation that more planting in the U.S., the world’s largest grower, will not be able to replenish global stocks. Also, wheat shot up by 72 percent due to crops ruined by flooding in Canada and Australia and reduced harvests due to drought in Russia and Europe. (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-…)
The World Bank warned last June that 44 million people have now fallen below the poverty line due to rising food prices. And a combination of factors have set the stage for an increase in deep poverty, including depleting natural resources, a global scramble for land and water, the rush to turn food into biofuels, a growing global population, climate change and changing diets.
“We are sleepwalking towards an age of avoidable crisis,” Oxfam’s chief executive, Barbara Stocking, said. “One in seven people on the planet go hungry every day despite the fact that the world is capable of feeding everyone. The food system must be overhauled.”
Oxfam called on the Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, and other leaders to agree to new rules governing food markets.
Oxfam wants greater regulation of commodities markets to contain volatility in prices and an urgent increase in global food reserves, including by ending the biofuels policies of western governments that divert food to fuel for cars. The agency also attacked excessive corporate concentration in the food sector, particularly in grain trading and in seed and agrochemicals.
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The average price of staple foods will more than double in the next 20 years, leading to an unprecedented reversal in human development, Oxfam has warned.
The world’s poorest people, who spend up to 80% of their income of food, will be hit hardest according to the charity. It said the world is entering an era of permanent food crisis, which is likely to be accompanied by political unrest and will require radical reform of the international food system.
Research to be published on Wednesday forecasts international prices of staples such as maize could rise by as much as 180% by 2030, with half of that rise due to the impacts of climate change.
After decades of steady decline in the number of hungry people around the world, the numbers are rapidly increasing as demand outpaces food production. The average growth rate in agricultural yields has almost halved since 1990 and is set to decline to a fraction of 1% in the next decade.
A devastating combination of factors – climate change, depleting natural resources, a global scramble for land and water, the rush to turn food into biofuels, a growing global population, and changing diets – have created the conditions for an increase in deep poverty.
“We are sleepwalking towards an age of avoidable crisis,” Oxfam’s chief executive, Barbara Stocking, said. “One in seven people on the planet go hungry every day despite the fact that the world is capable of feeding everyone. The food system must be overhauled.”
Oxfam called on the prime minister, David Cameron, and other G20 leaders to agree new rules to govern food markets. It wants greater regulation of commodities markets to contain volatility in prices.
It said global food reserves must be urgently increased and western governments must end biofuels policies that divert food to fuel for cars.
It also attacked excessive corporate concentration in the food sector, particularly in grain trading and in seed and agrochemicals.
The Oxfam report followed warnings from the UN last week that food prices are likely to hit new highs in the next few weeks, triggering unrest in developing countries. The average global price of cereals jumped by 71% to a new record in the year to April last month.
Drought in the major crop-growing areas of Europe and intense rain and tornadoes in the US have led to fears of shortfalls in this year’s crops.
The World Bank warned last month that rising food prices have pushed 44 million people into poverty since last June.
The World Bank has warned that rising food prices, driven partly by rising fuel costs, are pushing millions of people into extreme poverty.
World food prices are 36% above levels of a year ago, driven by problems in the Middle East and North Africa, and remain volatile, the bank said.
That has pushed 44 million people into poverty since last June.
A further 10% rise would push 10m more below the extreme poverty line of $1.25 (76p) a day, the bank said.
And it warned that a 30% cost hike in the price of staples could lead to 34 million more poor.
‘Protect the poor’
The World Bank estimates there are about 1.2 billion people living on less than $1.25 a day.
|Source: World Bank Development Prospects Group|
“We have to put food first and protect the poor and vulnerable, who spend most of their money on food.”
Mr Zoellick was speaking before IMF and World Bank spring meetings later this week.
The World Bank says prices of basic commodities remain close to their 2008 peak, with the prices of wheat, maize and soya all rocketing.
The only exception is rice, which has fallen slightly in price in the past year.
The bank suggests a number of measures to help alleviate the impact of high food prices on the poor.
They include encouraging food-producing countries to ease export controls, and to divert production away from biofuels production when food prices exceed certain limits..
Other recommendations include targeting social assistance and nutritional programmes to the poorest, better weather forecasting, more investments in agriculture, the adoption of new technologies – such as rice fortification to make it more nutritious, and efforts to address climate change.
It also said financial measures were needed to prevent poor countries being subject to food price volatility.
Read this on the Vancouver Craigslist Rants and Raves and just re-read it.
Date: 2010-07-09, 11:58AM
Our whole entire worlds economy has been monopolized by the corporate elite for hundreds of years.
If low income earners could be ensured a decent earning plus the promise of a small annual increase, they would have some incentive to invest in our banking systems, save money to purchase higher ticket items like houses and automobiles. They could afford SHELTER and FOOD and still have some money left over to save up and buy the bigger items that put money back into the economy.
When people are forced to live on a day to day budget and can barely afford to put meat on the table, they probably can’t afford banking premiums, restaurant service or a tall coffee at Starbucks either.
You can’t put money into the economy when you don’t have it to begin with.
Many generations of these so-called low income earners have slaved away and broken their backs to inflate the corporate elite agenda.
The laws of economy are based on the laws of supply and demand.
People know that the federal reserves are dwindling, that’s why our governments are trying to buy back gold jewellry off the backs of the so-called little people.
The important thing to remember here is that the “little people” are the majority.
If you give the majority more incentive to create new businesses, you create new jobs, more people make more money and can afford to buy the kinds of things that help stabalize the economy.
So where’s the problem?
Oh yeah, the world doesn’t have enough resources in reserve to sustain it’s own population… so I guess that means we’re back to being culled.
When our governments and big banks need more money, they just pull it out of thin air. Hence inflation.
Regardless of the spelling… the bottom line is the same.
THE TIME FOR CHANGE IS NOW!
According to the latest edition of its Food Price Watch, prices rose by 15% in the four months between October 2010 and January this year.
Food price inflation is felt disproportionately by the poor, who spend over half their income on food.
The Bank called on this week’s G20 meeting to address the problem.
He also said that rising food prices were an aggravating factor of the unrest in the Middle East, although not its primary cause.
Rapid food price inflation in 2008 sparked riots in a number of countries. At that time, the World Bank estimated 125 million people were in extreme poverty.
The World Bank says prices are not quite back at those levels – just 3% below – although they are 27% higher than a year ago.
Finance ministers and central bankers from the G20 group of developed and developing nations are meeting later this week in Paris.