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Thousands of kids living in poverty

Last year, 7,000 children in Red Deer and surrounding area would have gone hungry if it wasn’t for the Red Deer Food Bank.

And this year’s early winter means poor families will continue to suffer.

“That spells, really, disaster for a lot of low-income families because what happens is utility bills are going up,” said Fred Scaife, food bank executive director, on Wednesday.

“The utility bills are going to get paid right now. Then in December they’re going to ignore the utility bill because of Christmas.

January is going to come around and they’re still trying to catch up to Christmas bills. February is going to come around and they’re going to get their disconnect notices.

“February now has become one of the busiest months of the year.”

On Tuesday, Achieving the Promise: Ending Poverty in Alberta, published by the Edmonton Social Planning Council, Public Interest Alberta, and Alberta College of Social Worker reported that despite Alberta’s incredible wealth, 91,000 children under age 18 (11.3 per cent) lived in poverty in 2010 and 51.6 per cent of those children lived in a household where one or more persons were working full time for the entire year.

“In Alberta, we have over 90,000 children living in poverty. It’s a horrific number.”

We know at this food bank we’re higher than the national average of children receiving assistance.”

Due to the local cost of living, a family of four making less than $44,000 qualifies for assistance at the food bank.

Scaife said making education accessible and affordable is key to breaking the poverty cycle.

“What you have to do is start looking at the systemic causes of poverty. Trust me. I’ve been in the field long enough. I don’t run into a lot of PhDs at our counter.”

Instant, Band-Aid solutions don’t work, he said.

“We expect (poverty) to go away quickly and when it doesn’t then we as a society and government start to learn to live with it and that is where the real crime is.”

On Monday, Central Alberta Poverty Reduction Alliance and Red Deer College are hosting a free dinner and public screening of excerpts from the documentary Home Safe from 5 to 7 p.m., in room 2901 A and B at the college.

“We’re going to show three clips and all of the families have children and all of the families are affected by poverty and homelessness not due to any fault of their own,” said Amanda Ens, a community facilitator for the city who sits on the recently formed alliance made up of local not-for-profit agencies and individuals looking for community perceptions and input regarding poverty and its impact on the region.

The excerpts are expected to evoke a lot of emotion, she said.

“They are real situations that anyone can fall into, especially given the growing number of people who are on the edge of poverty, a few pay cheques away from being in these situations.”

People are asked to RSVP to the dinner and film at amanda.ens@reddeer.ca no later than today.

szielinski@reddeeradvocate.com

 
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