How much can you milk out of nickels and dimes?

After documenting the plight of a desperate young mother and her plea for milk and bread to tide her over until the end of the month, we talked to her this week on the heels of Monday’s annual general meeting at The Caring Cupboard.
The ten or so board members, concerned clients of the food bank and representatives from several community agencies who attended the session agreed on one thing: there are issues at the Talbot St. operation in the manner in which data is collected and the perceived humiliating fashion in which some individuals are treated.
One user went so far as to warn The Caring Cupboard “has lost its credibility.”
One positive recommendation – it’s time for the food bank and the various community organizations to build partnerships to deal with individuals whose daily needs require the expertise available through a cross-section of service providers.
The mother, whose plea sparked an outpouring of emotion from readers and individuals facing an all-too-similar future, vented her frustration with the process she believed had been followed to the letter.
“I’ve been using it (the food bank) for a few years now, pretty much ever since I moved to St. Thomas,” noted the young mother, who we’ll refer to as Tiffany.
“I had seen they were looking for a new director but I didn’t know anything about policy changes. She (new executive director Janice Kinnaird) said the policy was posted on the door for the past two years, but what’s posted on the door and the policy they actually follow are two completely different things.”
So did the mother assume her request to Kinnaird to obtain milk to help feed her two little boys would fall on sympathetic ears?
“She just didn’t care. People were trying to ask her questions and she just turned around and walked back into her office.
“I could have used the $5 dollars I used to get there for milk and bread close by. I thought if I go to the food bank I can get other things I need like diapers.”
And how did she fare after leaving The Caring Cupboard empty-handed?
“I didn’t, I just had to wait. I had to look at other things for breakfast. There wasn’t much else I could do.”
So what now for Tiffany?
“I guess it’s pinch more pennies here and there when I can. If I can avoid having to go back, I will. As it is, I’m careful with the budgeting. Every dime is accounted for. I guess I have to pinch the pennies a bit tighter.”
Whether she returns will depend on her ingenuity in squeezing the most out of nickels and dimes.
But one thing Tiffany is not short on is practicality.
“In the first period of the new changes, you can’t expect people to be able to fall into it right away. Surely there has to be some leniency period where they say we can help you now but next time you have to have the proper identification.”
You would think so, wouldn’t you?

Are Ontario municipalities as cash starved as they claim to be? It’s a common refrain enough funding is not trickling down from upper levels of government.
A report released this week by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) indicated municipal governments are consistently misrepresenting how much tax money ends up in their coffers.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) claims cities receive just eight cents out of every tax dollar collected in Canada.
The CFIB report contends the actual number is nearly double that: 15 cents. The FCM leaves out major sources of revenue, including transfers from provincial and federal governments, from its calculations.
“This eight cent myth is used at every municipal meeting to support the story that municipalities are revenue starved,” said Laura Jones, CFIB executive vice-president.
“But it’s a story that doesn’t reflect reality.”
Currently transfers from senior levels of government are at an all-time high, the report, according to the report, and inflation-adjusted revenues for Canadian municipalities doubled in the 31 years leading up to 2012.
Here is the clincher, according to the CFIB.
“Municipalities do not have a revenue problem,” said Jones. “They have a spending problem. It’s one thing to ask for more money if it’s needed and another to spend like it’s going out of style, and then cry poor.”
How will this revelation play out at contract time for the city’s police and fire services?
Which side is telling porkies here and where in the middle lies the true financial picture?
The report can be found on the CFIB website here.

“When you have no food, and you can’t pay your rent, your hydro is going to be cut off, the only thing that really controls your life from the moment you wake up until you go to bed at night is fear.”
Food bank user Sharon Hodgeson, speaking out at The Caring Cupboard annual general meeting this past Monday.

City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to

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