PERTH - Coun. Jim Boldt has questioned some of the spending priorities of The Table, the former Perth and District Food Bank.
“If I went to (The Table), I wouldn’t be going there to learn how to cook. I know how to cook,” said Boldt during budget deliberations on Friday, Jan. 25. “I need food.”
Boldt told council that he was echoing comments he had heard from constituents about The Table and its spending priorities.
Deputy Mayor John Gemmell also pointed to comments made in council chambers by Nancy Wildgoose, The Table’s executive director, and Hugh Colton, the organizer of the annual Build-a-Mountain of Food campaign. Both stated that the demand for food from The Table and other food banks was growing, and Gemmell said he wondered why The Table’s budget for food allocation was not rising along with it.
He noted that, by his estimation, The Table was different from other food banks in that money collected at, say, the Lanark Village food bank, would be used to buy food for that food bank, but that money collected for The Table could also be used for different social programs they offer, like social justice training, after-school programs, cooking classes, and the like.
“Can we, as a council, say to The Table, are we sure that our (town money) will go to food,” said Boldt.
Coun. Judy Brown however, in defending The Table’s spending decisions, recounted how she faced a similar situation during her time on the board of directors of the Perth and District Union Library.
“Sure, we’ll give you more money for books, but not for salaries,” recalled Brown. “They are connected. It all works together.”
For Brown, the issues at The Table were akin to the old parable about feeding a man for a day by giving him a fish, but by teaching him how to fish, you had empowered him to feed him for a lifetime.
“They are trying to break that generational thing, of people using it (the food bank) year after year,” said Brown. “If you teach people to fend for themselves, they will not come back year after year.”
Mayor John Fenik also defended the work done by The Table.
“What I care about is results and clearly we are getting results,” said Fenik.
Coun. Jim Graff supported the mayor’s point of view.
“There are some very skilled employees in there,” said Graff. “There will be benefits that we will see down the road,” from the extra services The Table offers.
At the end of the discussion, council voted to maintain “status quo,” funding for The Table, as well as the town’s youth centre, in the 2013 budget.