Every year, with the assistance of volunteers, Daily Bread Food Bank conducts a survey across the GTA of people who access food banks. The surveys were completed with the cooperation of Daily Bread member agencies and regional partners: The Mississauga Food Bank, North York Harvest Food Bank, York Region Food Network and Feed the Need in Durham.
For a fifth year in a row, food banks in the GTA saw over a million client visits. Underneath that figure hides very different numbers for different parts of the GTA, depending if people live in the city core, the former inner suburbs, or the 905 region.
The former inner suburbs of Toronto (Scarborough, North York and Etobicoke) saw an increase of nearly 40 per cent since 2008 in numbers of visits to food banks. Those numbers include highly educated, but underemployed, newcomer families with children living in apartments that are barely affordable. In the city core, it is single baby boomers with disabilities who are more often turning to a food bank for support, as they struggle with fixed incomes and rising food costs.
Unemployment rates and food bank visits often follow similar trends. In fact, visits to food banks might be a more sensitive indicator than unemployment rates of how the economy is doing. When people lose jobs, they come to a food bank when other options have run out. When they find work and get back on their feet, they tend not to return to the food bank. For most months following April 2012, Daily Bread member agencies saw a reduction in client visits from over the previous year. This precipitated a downward trend in unemployment rates in Toronto, which appears to have taken place in the fourth quarter of 2012.
Unemployment rates from City of Toronto, Open Data Initiative, Economic Indicators Database. Food Bank Client Visits from Daily Bread Food Bank and North York Harvest Food Bank