York Region Food Network
Submission to the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario
Discussion Paper 2: Approaches for Reform
York Region Food Network (YRFN) is a non-profit, charitable organization that works to promote
improved access to nutritious, affordable food for all people in York Region. We support several
initiatives such as community gardens, community kitchens, meal programs, student nutrition and
gleaning programs. We are also involved in public education activities to promote awareness of the
issues that are related to hunger and food security in our community.
Individuals trying to survive on Social Assistance in Ontario are living in deep poverty. The Social
Assistance Review Commission has a challenging job to improve the system to make it work better for
people. An immediate increase of $100 per adult would be a small step towards improving lives. Access
to healthy food is vital to good health and the costs to our health care, social services and criminal
justice systems in the long term far outweigh the costs of providing adequate supports now. The Ontario
Association of Food Banks report, The Cost of Poverty, does a good job of documenting these benefits.
Social Determinants of Health: The Canadian Facts by Juha Mikkonen and Dennis Raphael outlines the
dramatic impact of lack of income on health. Improved incomes are important to the health of all of us.
Chapter 1: Reasonable Expectations and Necessary Supports to Employment
Social Assistance is an investment in people and our communities. The current system has too many
disincentives for work and too few supports to allow people to develop the skills and habits to be
successful in the work force.
Chapter 2: Appropriate Benefit Structure
The people that access YRFN services would generally prefer to be working. We need to look at
adequate income required to meet the basic necessities of life: housing, food, social interaction,
transportation, child care (to support going to work) to determine rates. People also need to be afforded
the respect of having more control over their own budgets.
The comparison of Social Assistance recipients and the working poor is irrelevant. The system that
allows people to be working full time and still unable to make ends meet also needs to be improved.
Chapter 3: Easier to Understand
The surveillance approach is costly and demeaning. An audit approach would be a welcome change. The
scrutiny required by the current system creates massive inefficiency and often inequities, as individual
case workers treat clients differently. Asset levels definitely need to be increased. Forcing people to
divest all of their assets makes it that much harder to recover from the setbacks that forced them onto
Chapter 4: Viable over the Long term; Chapter 5: An Integrated Ontario Position on Income Security
It is always challenging to look at Social Assistance in isolation. Adequate affordable housing and a
robust economy can alleviate demands on the system. Resilient and sustainable communities and
policies that support our strengths, all have an impact. Our society is wealthy and we need to build on
everyone’s strengths and ability to participate. Then, we are all better off.
Joan Stonehocker, Executive Director
York Region Food Network
350 Industrial Parkway South
Aurora, ON L4G 3V7