People in need of help should not be judged

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To the editor,

In the non-profit world, storytelling is a powerful tool; it can open someone’s eyes to the struggles faced by another.

But it can also put the very people we support in the line of fire.

When the media approaches us to put them in contact with someone who is, or has been, assisted by a food bank, we are grateful for the opportunity to raise awareness, but also incredibly protective of the person willing to bravely share the intimate details of their life.


Many of the men and women who’ve made the devastatingly difficult decision to go to a food bank and ask for help are already dealing with feelings of shame, embarrassment, and self-judgement. The last thing they need to deal with after the story is made public, is to see or hear the comments of complete strangers berating their life choices. But this is often the case. “He should spend more time looking for work and less time getting handouts,” and “She shouldn’t have had three kids in the first place,” are among the comments we’ve heard.


Unfortunately, this vitriol reflects the opinions of far too many. It’s hurtful to the thousands of Nova Scotians living with hunger and poverty, and it damages the integrity of the food banks and meal programs supporting them, many of which are run by volunteers trying to make a difference with very little resources.


May 5 to 9 was Hunger Awareness Week, and the collective call to action from Food Banks Canada is for Canadians to, “Give hunger a voice.” What can you do? Voice your concern to our political leaders who influence change. Voice your solution. Voice your story about living with hunger.


And perhaps most importantly, voice your support for the people living with the daily heartbreak of hunger—listen emphatically and be encouraging. Create a safe environment for those who are brave enough to share their stories. Because behind these words on a page are real people. They don’t need you to leap to false conclusions about their life. They need you to listen, to think about what it might feel like to be in their situation.


And we need you to help make a difference in their lives by giving hunger a voice—during that week and every week—but please ensure that it’s one spoken with awareness and compassion.


Dianne Swinemar

Executive director

Feed Nova Scotia


Organizations: Food Banks Canada

Geographic location: Nova Scotia

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