McGuinty takes important first steps, food banks looking for giant leaps

    TORONTO, March 17 /CNW/ - The Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB)
welcomes the provincial government's morning announcement of an initial
downpayment on a poverty reduction plan with an up-front investment in dental
care, affordable housing, and student nutrition.

    Today's announcement featured investments which are in line with
recommendations made by the OAFB, including:
    -   $135 million over three years to enhance access to dental benefits
        for low-income Ontarians targeting prevention and treatment services;
    -   $100 million to repair social housing units in greatest need of care;
    -   $500 million in loan assistance which will be made available to
        repair social housing.

    "The provincial government is heading in the right direction with an
up-front investment in a few key components of a poverty reduction strategy,"
said Adam Spence, Executive Director of the OAFB. "These investments will
improve the health and quality of life of low-income Ontarians. But this is
not a complete road map."
    The OAFB calls on the provincial government to ensure dental services are
available to all low-income Ontarians by expanding eligibility to the new
program, and to improve the affordability of housing by introducing an
emergency housing allowance program targeting low-income households in urgent
need on the social housing waiting list. In addition, the OAFB also calls on
the government to make investments in more adequate and accessible social
assistance, enhanced child benefits, supports for social enterprise, and
savings-building initiatives for low-income households.
    "This can only be the beginning," said Sandy Singers, Chair of the OAFB
and Executive Director of Partners in Mission Food Bank. "We are looking
forward to the upcoming provincial budget, the poverty reduction plan
consultations and release, and the provincial budget in 2009 as the ultimate
fulfillment of a commitment to all Ontarians living in poverty."
    The provincial government has made a commitment to complete the poverty
reduction plan by the end of 2008, including program investments, legislative
changes, targets, and indicators. It will require an unprecedented effort by
government to ensure that the plan is completed and supported by a significant
and necessary investment, progressive legislative changes, effective
indicators, and aggressive targets in order to reduce hunger and poverty for
the hundreds of thousands of Ontarians that are forced to turn to food banks
every month.
    "There is a lot of work to do in a very short period of time," said
Spence. "The official countdown has now begun for the completion of the plan
in 2008 and the expected investment in the provincial budget in spring 2009."

    The Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB) is a network of over
100 food banks working to end hunger across the province from Ottawa to
Windsor, and Niagara Falls to Thunder Bay. 320,000 Ontarians are served by
food banks every month, and 40 per cent of those served are children.

For further information:

For further information: Adam Spence, Executive Director, Ontario
Association of Food Banks (OAFB), W: (416) 656-4100, C: (416) 543-0897, E:; Sandy Singers, Chair, Ontario Association of Food Bank (OAFB),
w. (613) 544-4534, c: (613) 539-0389

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Ontario Association of Food Banks

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