Volume 92, Issue 64

Thursday, January 21, 1999


The end of an incredible journey

Stating the success of the city's year

Lawsuit brings financial burden

Sexuality could find its way into course calendar

Bilingualism slipping

Food scarcity a problem with homeless


Food scarcity a problem with homeless

By Elliott Platt
Gazette Staff

A recent study has revealed that among street youths, hunger is a serious problem.

The study, called "Food Problems Experienced by Toronto Street Youth," was researched by Margarita Antoniades, a forth-year nutrition student at the University of Toronto and Valerie Tarasuk, a professor of nutrition also at U of T.

The study included 88 street youths in downtown Toronto and began in January of 1997, to assess the nature and severity of food scarcity experienced by a sample of street youth. Tarasuk explained the purpose of the study was to get quantitative data among how many homeless people are not getting enough to eat.

She said she was surprised by the findings of the study. "Youths who were living on the street or in a 'squat' and those whose major source of income was squeegeeing or panhandling, appeared most vulnerable to food deprivation."

A problem with Toronto's food distribution programs is they do not serve three meals a day, seven days a week, Tarasuk said. People cannot get from one food bank to another because some of them are very far from each other and it is difficult for homeless people to travel long distances, either because they get tired or are generally not in good shape. Tarasuk added the hunger problem cannot be solved until poverty and homelessness are solved.

Mario Silva, Toronto city councillor for the Trinity/Niagara ward or Ward 20, said the city has commissioned a task force on homelessness but is having difficulty garnering financial support from the provincial government.

"The main issue is how to get housing. It's a major concern," Silva said.

He added there is no question hunger and homelessness are a major concern in the Toronto area. "The two target groups are youth, children and women."

The study stated "most of the 28 youth who reported not having eaten for an entire day said it happened only once or twice, but one youth reported having gone without food for 15 of the previous 30 days."

Although the study took place in Toronto, London faces similar problems. "We feel that there is a concern we in London want to address," said Rob Alder, chair of London's community and protective services committee. "The percentage of low income families in London is approximately 15.2 per cent, compared to Toronto's which is between 13 per cent to 14 per cent."

Alder said the children and street youth in poverty launched a program two weeks ago called the heat and warmth program or THAW. "This program just began in the beginning of January to help ends meet," Alder said. The purpose is to cover hydro and utility bills for low income families. The program is through the United Way, so it can be monitored to avoid abuse of the system, he added.

"Various club programs address the homeless problem in London at Western," said Peter Hill, VP-campus issues for the University Students' Council.

Hill added Huron College is in the process of forming a group which will assist the homeless. Western also contributes to the homeless through United Way Week.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999