Daily Bread Food Bank and North York Harvest have released the annual Who’s Hungry report, a profile of hunger in Toronto. The report reveals that prior to COVID-19, food bank use had already increased by 5% compared to the previous year, with close to one million visits in the city of Toronto – the same level as peak following the 2008-09 financial crisis.
With the arrival of COVID-19, food bank visits continue to climb significantly, increasing by 22% in June to a staggering 51% in August compared to the previous year. It is expected that this year will have the highest number of food bank visits ever recorded in Toronto.
Food bank clients in Toronto are facing severe food insecurity, which is being driven by precarious employment, insufficient income, and unaffordable housing:
- 85% of survey respondents reported that they did not always have enough food to eat even after accessing food banks.
- 43% of survey respondents went hungry at least once per week, and this was the case for 22% of children.
- 62% of employed survey respondents were working in precarious temporary, part-time or contract jobs, which have been hardest hit by job losses during COVID-19.
- Survey respondents reported a median income of $892, less than half of the monthly income required to have a basic standard of living, based on official poverty line for Toronto ($1,804).
- 83% of survey respondents living in private market rentals (i.e., not subsidized housing) were paying more than half of their income on housing, putting them at high risk of homelessness.
COVID-19 has intensified food insecurity. Three quarters of respondents who had never accessed a food bank before reported that they began using food banks because of the pandemic, primarily due to job loss or reduction in hours.
As all levels of government develop strategies for economic recovery, it is imperative that poverty reduction and food insecurity be at the core of recovery efforts to prevent another long-term crisis.
“Food banks are still grappling with the aftermath of the 2008-09 recession. Now, with the massive increase in food bank use during COVID-19, we are deeply concerned that we will be facing another decade of heightened food insecurity,” says Neil Hetherington, CEO, Daily Bread Food Bank. “The trends we were seeing before the pandemic – the high cost of housing, rising precarious employment, and insufficient income supports – are what have made our communities most vulnerable to the impacts of this virus.”
“This pandemic has shown that despite the challenges, food banks are able to deliver emergency assistance to our community effectively and efficiently. However, it has also exposed the urgent need to address the root cause of food insecurity – poverty – in a systemic way,” says Ryan Noble, Executive Director, North York Harvest.
The 2020 Who’s Hungry report sheds light on the past, present, and future of food insecurity in Toronto. To prevent a long-term crisis, Daily Bread and North York Harvest recommend the following immediate actions be taken:
- Eliminate deep poverty by increasing social assistance rates, centering community-based responses in poverty reduction, and increasing refundable tax benefits for vulnerable populations.
- Make employment a pathway out of poverty by implementing national, universal childcare, raising the minimum wage, enhancing employment standards, and implementing a national pharmacare program.
- Achieve affordable housing for all by providing immediate and long-term rent relief, increasing the supply of affordable housing, and ensuring that housing and development policies meet the needs of those with low incomes.
Visit dailybread.ca/whoshungry to read full report.
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SOURCE Daily Bread Food Bank