Daily Bread submits report on improving access to food for City of Toronto Poverty Reduction Strategy as part of community consultations
In April 2014 City Council directed the development of a City of Toronto Poverty Reduction Strategy. In the City’s first round of consultations for its Poverty Reduction Strategy, food banks were discussed frequently when it came to suggested actions on improving access to food.
The City is currently wrapping up its second phase of consultation, which sought input in order to identify top priorities and principles, as well as focused “deep dives” on recommendations from specific areas (such as affordable housing, child care, support for quality nutrition for all). With a group of representatives from some of Daily Bread’s member agencies, Daily Bread staff facilitated and took part in a group discussion exploring some of the recommendations made in this first round of consultations, identifying some key recommendations in order to fight hunger and poverty in Toronto in both the short and long term.
Income and housing: foundational to addressing food insecurity
Despite the high number of people coming to food banks in the city, food programs only meet a fraction of the level of need. Recent research from Valerie Tarasuk, a professor at the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto, found that just over 20 per cent of low-income residents had accessed a food bank, and 5 per cent or less accessed community kitchens and community gardens. While very important and worthy initiatives for other reasons, they have proven unable to meet the needs of Torontonians facing hunger on the scale that is required.
As such, discussion participants felt that housing and income were foundational areas to address in order to address food insecurity. Without sufficiently addressing those two areas, little progress will be made on eliminating hunger and poverty in our city. As many issues around income security that drive food bank use rest outside the scope of the city’s responsibility, participants felt that the city can and should play a stronger, more visible role in advocating for these issues to be addressed at the provincial and federal level.
Suggested actions to improve food access: Looking closer
While these areas are foundational to reducing poverty and hunger, discussion participants felt that the City could help increase food security for people with low income in three key areas:
- Helping increase the availability of space to run food banks, as the needed facilities to run programs such as food banks are disappearing;
- Making a granting process available for food banks that help capital and core funding requirements for essential equipment like large freezers, so nutritious, perishable food can be adequately stored; and,
- Through partnership with Toronto Public Health, helping to fund the bulk purchase of key dietary items that are seen as critical in order for households to have a nutritious diet, and distributed through the food bank network.
As the City proceeds with its Poverty Reduction Strategy, there is much potential for progress to be made that improves the quality of life for all its citizens. Daily Bread, its vast agency network that helps feed Toronto, and the individuals who access their services, have a great deal of knowledge and experience that can help continue to inform this strategy as it moves forward. With that, the City of Toronto can help Daily Bread, along with its member agencies, in its mission to end poverty and hunger in our communities.
 S Kirkpatrick, V Tarasuk. Food insecurity and participation in community food programs among low-income Toronto families. Canadian Journal of Public Health 2009; 100(2): 135-139.