Reflecting on “Food Insecurity and the Pitfalls of Charity”

Thank you to everyone that came out to our FIRST Awareness Forum of the year! It was wonderful to see so many students and members of our community engaging with the topic, ‘Food Insecurity and the Pitfalls of Charity!’ We’d like to give a special thank you to Dr. Elaine Power, who led us in a revealing discussion about the frameworks and outcomes of charity.

Dr. Power likened “upstream and downstream” aid to people standing on a riverbank rescuing a series of drowning swimmers. In the act of saving person after person downstream, the rescuers don’t have the time or resources to travel upstream and discover why people keep falling into the river.

In the context of food insecurity, this analogy illuminates the difference between immediate action taken to mitigate the experience and effects of hunger, versus the broader and systemic changes needed to address the causes of hunger. As Dr. Power pointed out, direct mechanisms of charity offer a meaningful sense of gratification to those involved. For instance, helping people fill their stomachs by serving a hot meal at a soup kitchen can feel far more impactful than writing a letter to your local MP. Although interactive and material forms of charity improve people’s quality of life and strengthen our communities, Dr. Power noted that they do not necessarily move towards social justice. In fact, these efforts can sometimes distract society from instigating change.

Many of us came away from this discussion with a clearer understanding of the dual responsibility we all have, not only to engage in partnerships to benefit our communities, but also to consciously look ‘upstream’ and pursue broader societal changes that will help abate the need for charity.

Start looking forward to our upcoming Awareness Week which will run from November 18-22nd! Events will include our second awareness forum of the year, “A City with Two Faces: Income Disparity and Food Insecurity in Kingston” on November 21st from 6-7pm. In this forum, guest speaker Dr. Melanie Bedore will lead a discussion about hunger and poverty in Kingston. We look forward to seeing you there!